Wonderland Charter School Curriculum
We use a Theme Approach each month to tie in all subject areas, as well as reinforce cognitive activities. The kindergarten at Wonderland Charter School is a full day schedule starting at 8:20 a.m. and ending at 3:00 p.m. Our normal day consists of:
Free Play / Teacher Time
Gross Motor Skills Time (Playtime outside on the playground or inside in the gym)
Music or Art
Gross Motor Skills Time (Playtime outside on the playground or inside in the gym)
Handwriting / Creative Handwriting
Direct Instruction (DISTAR)
Language, Math, and Reading are taught using the Direct Instruction (DISTAR) curriculums published by MacMillan/McGraw Publishing Company. DISTAR is a teacher-directed school reform model, which maximizes learning through explicit curriculum. The DISTAR program breaks skills into teachable subskills, then shows students how to bring these together with a larger strategy. As students master increasingly complex approaches, they build confidence along with their ability. A strong feature of DISTAR is that all children are assessed at the beginning of the school year to determine their exact abilities. The children are then grouped in small groups for more individualized instruction at their particular ability level. Children can be moved easily from one group to another if their skill level increases at a faster or slower rate than their peers in their particular group. DISTAR also has a mechanism that prevents children from failing without the teacher's explicit knowledge. This then forces the teacher to change teaching strategies, and if necessary rebuild the educational foundation until success is achieved.
(For an interesting article on DISTAR that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, click here. This article is in Adobe Acrobat pdf format. If you don't have Adobe Acrobat installed on your computer, click here for a free download from Adobe.
Language Arts Activities.
The teaching vehicle used to implement the language portion of the Wonderland Charter School Curriculum is the DISTAR Language I Program by the Macmillan/McGraw Publishing Company. The purpose of DISTAR Language I is to help students learn the words, concepts, and statements important to both oral and written language comprehension. They will learn word and sentence skills plus important thinking skills as a foundation for reading comprehension. Their range of information and vocabulary is extended and they will develop questioning and reasoning skills and apply these skills to new situations. DISTAR Language does more than teach language skills. Students also learn to think! They learn to group objects in different ways to see the logic behind the 'rules' and to know when and how to apply these rules.
The Wonderland Reading Program utilizes the DISTAR Horizons Learning to Read (Levels A & B; Fast Track A-B; and Fast Track Levels C-D) program by Macmillan/McGraw Publishing Company. DISTAR Horizons builds a solid foundation for fluency and comprehension by systematically teaching phonemic awareness and explicit phonics. Students apply decoding strategies in the context of fun, appealing stories, all written in a carefully developed sequence to provide needed practice. Once student complete Level A, they will have mastered about 700 words and have a solid foundation on which to build fluency and comprehension. Level B masters an additional 2,000 words and children will be well-equipped to enter any third grade reading program after this part of the program.
Fast Track C-D is appropriate for children who have completed Fast Track A-B and other fluent readers ready to make the transition from fiction to nonfiction reading strategies. Using a unique classroom-tested program design, Fast Track C-D expands key decoding and vocabulary skills while developing higher level thinking and vocabulary and comprehension strategies. Reading for information is emphasized so children develop as critical readers, able to read for information as well as for pleasure.
The Wonderland Mathematics Program utilizes the DISTAR Arithmetic I program by Macmillan/McGraw Publishing Company. DISTAR Arithmetic is designed to teach effective strategies for learning and retaining facts, solving computational problems, and working story problems. The program design makes learning beginning mathematics easy for students by breaking complex tasks into component skills, teaching these preskills, and demonstrating to the children how the components are combined. This simplification of complex tasks plus ample practice enables all children to experience success. Each student will begin at a learning point comfortable to their needs and they will progress from there. The children will learn the material through teacher presentation as well as individual workbooks. We, of course, will also play fun games as reinforcement of our learned skills. The tools the children will use involves counting, logical thinking, measuring, graphing, addition, subtraction, cuisenaire rods, unifex cubes, and geoboards.
The teacher will conduct daily lessons with the students in handwriting. Our Handwriting Program was developed by Zaner-Bloser as part of their Kindergarten Readiness Program. Zaner-Bloser is one of the premier publishers of research-based writing programs in the world. This program starts with the practice of simple strokes and directional movement and progresses to letter formation. This facilitates a smooth transition to cursive with a continuous stroke approach to manuscript. We will use a simple color dot system using the familiar 'traffic light' to guide our letter formation. And, we have learning aids in the classroom such as flash cards and writing templates to focus our handwriting efforts. Overall, the letter forms in this program help prevent handwriting hazards and increase legibility. The type of handwriting that the children at Wonderland Charter School will learn is the same as taught by the State College Area School District (SCASD) as well as most other school districts that still teach handwriting. This was done purposely to provide for a smooth integration by our kindergarten graduates into the SCASD. Unfortunately, there is a national trend by the public school system to no longer teach handwriting because of the advent of computers. Here at Wonderland Charter School, we believe that learning correct handwriting is essential to effective communication skills in a person's life. As such, we will continue to teach handwriting to our kindergarten children.
Scientific literacy is an important piece of the puzzle in making informed decisions in the world today. Good choices frequently depend on understanding how things work, observing accurately, analyzing data, and thinking critically.
Children at Wonderland Charter School will study science utilizing the SRA Real Science Curriculum. SRA Real Science provides practice in the science process skills, as well as the information necessary to understand the concepts in life, earth, physical, and health science, while appealing to today's students. Critical research based strategies and features have been built into the program to improve the quality of science education.
In the absence of good science education, students make up explanations for what they see and hear. These intuitive concepts are hard to dislodge - even in the face of clear evidence. When educators don't know what students already know and think, they often miss the target. So that teachers understand what students know about science concepts, every concept begins with Diagnosing Student Conceptions. This contains simple questions and ideas for assessing student knowledge and possible misconceptions. Every lesson begins with Activating Prior Knowledge, which also helps teachers understand what students think about a concept. Clear explanations of how to interpret student conceptions are included.
Social Science and Intercultural Activities.
This area will broaden the children's ideas about people and the way they live together. Children will understand how they are unique and how they are part of a group. The children will develop social and citizenship skills through sharing, accepting responsibility, planning, cooperating, compromising, and making decisions. The students will begin to recognize the need for rules and responsibilities within the home, school and neighborhood and develop a respect for living things. They will also develop an awareness of people, jobs, and services within the community. In conjunction with this, the students will develop an appreciation for stories, fairy tales, rhymes, poetry, art, music, and dance. This will result in the children developing an awareness of customs and traditions that are developed through group living.
Expressive arts (including music, art, and dramatic play.)
Art, music, and dramatic play are interwoven throughout all of our learning experiences and subject areas to maximize the child's learning arena. We will stimulate the children's imaginations by having them use clay, paper, crayons, markers, paint, paste, and collage materials to express their feelings and ideas. We will encourage the children to express themselves and their ideas through music. We will use records, tapes, and rhythm instruments to develop a love for music. The children will learn to sing, chant, accompany and move to music. This will also enhance their listening, reading, and writing skills.
Our curriculum at Wonderland Charter School is a comprehensive educational program that also nurtures the emotional well-being of each and every child. During the normal course of the school year, your child will have 1000+ curriculum hours which is well above the minimum 450 hours required in a half-day kindergarten. Our 1000+ curriculum hours are also in excess of the 900 hours found in most full-day kindergartens, including SCASD's kindergarten program. Our vision is to meet each child's needs educationally, emotionally, and socially before they enter first grade with an educational model that identifies in detail each child's strengths and weaknesses. This is integrated into a unique curriculum that overcomes a student's weaknesses, grows their strengths, and is geared to their specific needs with an Differentiated Education Plan. The end result is a child whose self-esteem is bolstered and has a solid foundation for future schooling!