Instructional Methods and Philosophy 2023-2024

Students at Community Roots Charter School are part of an educational community where rigorous curriculum is made engaging and accessible and where students meet high expectations by being given the support they need and deserve. Our educational model addresses the individual needs of students and ensures that all students meet their potential.

We believe that people learn best by doing things embedded in meaningful and interesting contexts and that children need direct instruction in the content area in order to develop the skills necessary to be active participants in learning experiences.

Key components of our educational program are outlined below.

Curriculum and Instruction

Integrated Studies: Integrated Studies is a time where students learn social studies content while also practicing the reading, writing, listening and speaking skills they are working on. Teachers also work hard to intentionally make connections across units and subject areas that include Art and Music. All throughout, students learn and practice critical literacy and historical thinking skills that challenge them to ask questions, examine sources for bias and seek out multiple perspectives.

In our approach to teaching Integrated Studies, in their early years, students start learning about themselves and grow into learning about their families, their school community and our neighborhood. With this foundation, over time, students then build off of what they have learned. Teachers create space for students to reflect upon their own identities and histories and then make connections to historical places, events and people.

In our curriculum, we do not shy away from hard histories, we focus on incorporating joy and humanity and we make connections to current events. We are always considering how we can de-center dominant narratives and find ways to meaningfully integrate omitted perspectives/histories into our units. This approach cultivates opportunities for students to imagine how we can take action on issues they care about. With all of this, as tough conversations emerge where students need support, teachers have classroom agreements/norms they co-create with students and offer choices for care, as needed.

English Language Arts: The largest part of the day at Community Roots is devoted to developing literacy and communication skills necessary to gain understanding. At Community Roots we use a researched and proven method which recognizes the need for both the explicit teaching of phonics and phonemic awareness skills and the opportunity for children to participate in activities that are designed to build comprehension and meaning. Each day students receive direct instruction to build a skill in reading and writing (often in small group) and then time to practice that skill and receive feedback on their independent practice. The fundamental components of literacy; reading, writing, listening, and speaking are the foundation of the Community Roots education. Students learn to read, write, listen, and speak for a variety of purposes and practice these skills in all curricular areas. At Community Roots we believe that students need intensive instruction in reading and writing in order to develop the skills they need to be literate members of society.

Math:Community Roots uses the Illustrative Math curriculum. IM is a problem-based core curriculum built on the principle that all students are capable learners of grade-level mathematics. Students learn math by doing math. They are encouraged to use their current understanding of math, their lived experiences, and the world around them as resources for problem solving. By starting with what students already know, teachers invite all students to contribute to mathematical learning, centering student thinking, and being responsive as students develop conceptual understanding. One of IM’s strengths is its alignment with the Next Generation Learning Standards and the connections it builds between concepts as children grow.

Science: At Community Roots children go to the science lab and are taught by our Science teachers. We use the Full Option Science System (FOSS) New Generation curriculum. FOSS provides an inquiry-based, hands-on approach to science consistent with the Community Roots mission. This approach guides teachers in teaching children important scientific concepts while developing the habits of mind or skills of real scientists, including meaningful observation and exploration, testing hypotheses, and analyzing new information, while learning about the natural world.

Visual Arts and Music: At Community Roots all students experience visual expression and problem solving through design in our Art and Design Studio and are taught by our two Art teachers. Students work with a variety of media and materials and are encouraged to take creative risks and try new approaches in their work. The art curriculum is at times tied to the integrated studies curriculum and content allowing students to engage with and enrich their classroom study through art making. At other times students engage in exploratory lessons where students learn different techniques and skills in various art materials. The art curriculum focuses on 7 art mediums: drawing, painting, collage, printmaking, clay, sculpture, and craft. From grades K-5, students build their skills in each material through a series of lessons that are aligned to their artistic development.

Our music curriculum, taught by our Music teacher, actively engages students in making music with their voices, bodies, and a variety of percussion instruments. Music at Community Roots is largely informed by the Kodály concept of music education. This philosophy holds that singing, particularly traditional folk music of various cultures, is the foundation of music learning. Community Roots’ emphasis on experience, skill building, and exploration is echoed in the music program. From their singing experiences, students make observations about the elements of music and how music works. They are then able to apply those ideas as they play and create. With this understanding, students then begin reading and writing music.

Physical Education: At Community Roots we understand the importance of physical education. Physical education is a time for students to learn and practice fine and gross motor skills, to learn how to actively participate in large group games and to develop habits that lead to staying physically fit. Students go to Physical Education twice a week and are taught by our Physical Education teacher.

Conflict Resolution and Community Building: Conflict resolution is one way in which groups of students learn to work together collaboratively and develop strategies to solve problems that arise. Through methods of classroom management and community building and the study of our core values, students at Community Roots develop communication skills, the ability and willingness to listen to their peers, to take turns and share responsibilities in order to accomplish a project greater than one person could do alone. Community Roots uses a restorative approach to conflict resolution and has multiple staff members trained through the International Institute of Restorative Practices, who support our community when larger conflicts arise. The key tenets of Restorative Practices are separating the deed from the doer, hearing multiple perspectives, understanding and taking responsibility when harm has been caused, and working towards repair.