The curriculum at Willow Creek Elementary School emphasizes the whole child. Students are expected to show growth in their mastery of basic skills and in content associated with the Colorado Academic Standards. Information on these standards can be accessed on the Colorado Department of Education website. National media and technology standards are also interwoven throughout the curriculum in order to teach students how to access and utilize information. These content areas and skills lay a foundation for an excellent preparation for middle school and for eventual success as adults.
Literacy Instruction (Reading and Writing)
Reading - Within a balanced and comprehensive view of reading and to meet or exceed Colorado Academic Standards, we believe that
Children, when reading, construct their own meaning.
Effective reading instruction can develop engaged readers who are knowledgeable, strategic, motivated, and socially interactive.
Phonemic awareness, a precursor to competency in identifying words, is one of the best predictors of later success in reading.
Modeling is an important form of classroom support for literacy learning.
Storybook reading, done in the context of sharing experiences, ideas, and opinions, is a highly demanding mental activity for children.
Responding to literature helps students construct their own meaning which may not always be the same for all readers.
Children who engage in daily discussions about what they read are more likely to become critical readers and learners.
Expert readers have strategies that they will use to construct meaning before, during, and after reading.
Reading and writing abilities develop together.
The most valuable form of reading assessment reflects current understanding about the reading process and stimulates authentic reading tasks.
The staff at Willow Creek Elementary School utilizes a wide range of research-based instructional methods to teach reading, tailored to meet all students' needs. The methods are closely aligned with five essential reading components, including phonemic awareness, phonics, comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency, addressed by Colorado Academic Standards for teaching reading. Our reading program allows for continuity of instructional practices across all grade levels.
In the primary grades, our school utilizes multisensory instructional techniques focused on phonemic awareness and phonics. This is paired with guided reading instruction providing targeted academic challenge for each student. We use oral and beginning written retell formats at this level which focus on the essential components of story grammar and text structure. These practices are paired with a variety of genres of text.
At the primary levels, teachers utilize the Wilson Fundations program to assist students with an understanding of phonemic awareness, phonics, and spelling. The Fundations program is a multi-sensory approach developed to enable students to acquire an understanding of letters and sounds in relation to reading words and spelling. The Guided Reading program is also used throughout the primary levels as a method to differentiate instruction for students as they progress as readers. Our reading specialist provides extended programming for primary students in need of additional service in small group settings, utilizing Fundations and patterned readers for direct instruction.
As students progress to the intermediate grade levels, the program is expanded and elaborated on by units of novel study and the use of selected spelling/vocabulary programs. More complex genres and written response formats are taught, such as essay, compare/contrast, and persuasion. The intermediate-level teachers provide supplemental instruction in the form of before- or after-school Proficiency Centers to assist students in need of additional support.
In the intermediate levels, teachers work to individualize and differentiate instruction through the use of written response in novel study format. Beginning in grade 3, Willow Creek uses the MCP Phonics, word study, and spelling program as a means to increase student competency. The learning disability specialist provides small group instruction for intermediate level students utilizing the Phonics Boost program. This program is designed to assist students in developing vocabulary, comprehension, and decoding skills in reading. The Gifted and Talented specialist uses a word etymology-based spelling program for advanced level 5th grade students.
We believe in early identification and intervention for children who exhibit reading difficulties. Prior to students reaching school age, we identify and provide service to those who are in need of support as pre-school children preparing for entrance into school. Our Pupil Services Team provides an individual readiness assessment to each child upon entrance into Kindergarten. Our school's Problem Solving Team, a group of professionals including the principal, Special Education personnel, program specialists, and classroom teachers, meets each week to discuss student referrals and to develop assistance strategies in a Response to Intervention (R.T.I.) model. Our school has a speech pathologist, learning disabilities specialist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, and a reading specialist who work together to provide support services and interventions for students.
Our school's licensed librarian has assembled an extensive collection of books in our library, supplemented by Renaissance Learning's Accelerated Reader program. Parent involvement is considered to be an essential component of our reading program and the library coordinates schoolwide efforts to encourage active student reading on a daily basis.
Writing - To meet or exceed Colorado Academic Standards, we believe that
All children can and should write.
Teachers must help students find real purposes to write.
Students need to take ownership, make choices, and take responsibility within their writing.
Effective writing programs involve the complete writing process.
Teachers help students to draft and revise writing.
Grammar and mechanics are best learned in the context of actual writing.
Students need real audiences and a classroom context of shared learning.
Writing should extend throughout the curriculum.
Effective teachers use evaluation constructively and efficiently.
Our writing curriculum is characterized as being balanced and comprehensive. We believe that writing is a craft. With this in mind, we prescribe to the following description of the writing process:
"A craft is a process of shaping material toward an end. There is a long, painstaking, patient process demanded to learn how to shape material to a level where it is satisfying to the person doing the crafting. Writing demands constant revision, constant reseeing of what is being revealed by the information at hand; in one instance the subject of the writing, in another the person learning to write" (Graves, 1983).
To meet or exceed Colorado Academic Standards, our school utilizes the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project materials titled Everyday Mathematics as the primary resource in mathematics instruction. Everyday Mathematics builds on fundamental mathematical strands such as numeration and order, measures and measurement, reference frames, operations, patterns, functions, and sequences. Moreover, Everyday Mathematics uses more of the mathematical spectrum by exploring data and chance, geometry and spatial sense, algebra, and the uses of variables.
Everyday Mathematics is a National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) approved curriculum that promotes a balanced approach to mathematics. Computational skill, conceptual understanding, and reasoning develop together during meaningful activities that emphasize problem solving and real-life applications.
In addition to this curriculum, Willow Creek teachers supplement with a variety of research-based best practice materials to enhance written communication, application, and depth of understanding of mathematical content. We assess and compact curriculum to maximize achievement in each child. Flexible groups are formed within grade levels to differentiate individual pacing needs and learning styles. Specialized small group instruction, provided by mathematics specialists, is utilized to assist students not meeting grade-level benchmarks. Currently, a building-level math study team is working as a professional learning community to refine instruction in order to increase student learning in mathematics. Specifically, this group has been learning and utilizing the Add+Vantage Math program.
Willow Creek relies on the use of flexible grouping patterns to differentiate student instruction in mathematics. Based on assessment results, students are placed in math groups designed to provide academic challenge. Intervention services for students, utilizing small-group instruction, begins in 2nd grade and extends through 5th grade. A fast-paced challenge group is organized in 2nd grade. In the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades, students are grouped in a continuum based on individual student progress. Instruction in 4th grade includes a nine-week Hands on Algebra unit taught by the Gifted and Talented specialist for advanced students. Math instruction at the 5th grade level culminates with the addition of the Gifted and Talented specialist to the instructional rotation. The Gifted and Talented teacher provides above grade-level instruction to a group of students.
As a public school, Willow Creek participates in the assessments administered by the Colorado Department of Education, collectively referred to as the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS). In prior years, these assessments included the CSAP and TCAP. The state is now transitioning to new instruments to assess student learning, all of which are based on the revised Colorado Academic Standards. Colorado introduced the new CMAS assessments for Science and Social Studies earlier in the 2013-14 school year, while retaining the TCAP for language arts and math. This year CDE expects to use the PARCC assessment for language arts and math.
For a quick overview of Colorado standards and assessments, you can visit CDE's webpage for Fact Sheets and FAQs.If you would like more information about the Colorado Academic Standards, please follow this link here.
If you would like more information about the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS), use this link here.
How Willow Creek Uses Assessments
Willow Creek utilizes the results of state assessments, additional formal measures given locally, and informal classroom assessments to plan for student instruction. At the beginning of each school year, each teacher in grades 3, 4, and 5 is provided with complete information on the academic performance of their current students, maintained in the District's BObj (Business Objects) Data Access System. The reports include student performance results on the CMAS assessments, on the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), on assessments developed and administered by the district, and Teacher Proficiency Ratings. The principal meets with teachers individually, in grade-level teams, and in content-area professional learning communities to review past results and to identify students who are in need of targeted academic support or interventions in specific sub-content areas.
Additional information gathered from the BObj data is also utilized to guide instructional improvement. Teachers are provided with an item analysis of performance from the most recent CMAS assessments, broken down into the percentage of correct answers for specific sub-content areas. Individually, teachers are able to use this information to review past instructional strategies and to target areas for personal growth. As a group, teachers are able to utilize information from BObj to identify potential areas for improvement and professional growth for the staff.
Teachers utilize ongoing formal, informal, and classroom assessment data to continuously update student progress on standards. Teachers are required to update student proficiency levels in reading, writing, and mathematics three times during each school year. Intervention or support services are defined for students who are continuing to perform below the "Proficient" level.
Gifted and Talented Education
It is our philosophy at Willow Creek that we should structure our GT program to embrace flexible grouping and to uniquely fit our students and teachers. Each year, we look at our students' needs at each grade level, and we develop that year's instruction to meet those needs. A body of evidence is used to make decisions on participants for each GT pull-out class. We have a variety of programs and opportunities for students.
Learn more about our program by following this link:
Brochure on Gifted and Talented Instruction at Willow Creek
Our former GT teacher, Lisa Heaton, presented information about underachievement at one of our PTO meetings. This presentation was originally researched and created by Sue Whitnah for the Cherry Creek School District and was adapted by Ms. Heaton for parents at Willow Creek Elementary. It features information about underachievement: what it is, how to recognize it, whom it can impact and specific strategies to help combat it. Emphasis is placed on early intervention, as parents, to help children focus on effort over ability. It is saved as a PDF file so all or parts can be printed. A resource list is included for further reading.
Presentation on Underachievement
Resource List on Underachievement