VOICE Elementary School
At VOICE Elementary School, we believe in providing a nurturing environment that supports all students in meeting high behavioral and academic expectations. We encourage students to grow as learners in all areas of their life. We have a rich academic program that consists of many core areas of instruction, including a deep emphasis on music and the arts. Our teachers work hard to develop deep and meaningful relationships with students and their families, collaborating around each individual student’s holistic growth. We hope that our elementary school builds the foundation for a fulfilling life for our students in which they are able to choose from many enriching pathways after they graduate to middle school, high school, college, and beyond.
Student Culture and Discipline
We will develop students who are autonomous, empathetic and collaborative by balancing students’ growing freedom with appropriate boundaries, empowering students to learn from their own behavior, and promoting students’ emotional and moral development.
Our approach to student culture is based in our three core values:
Care: Everyone is an ends in themselves and moral human beings consider the impact on others. Student accountability and restoration rather than punishment to maximize student growth.
Efficacy: Kids do well when they can. If they could, they would. If they don’t, it is because of lagging skills which can be improved upon, a relationship has broken down, or because things have not been set up to go right.
Wonder: Motivation comes from experiencing autonomy, mastery, and purpose. It is not extrinsic rewards but rather sharing control that will motivate student
Our vision is to develop independent and critical thinkers by focusing on student learning, embedding essential content in instruction, engaging students deeply in learning, and building academic ownership. At VOICE, we embody our core values of care, efficacy, and wonder in every part of our school.
Our approach to academics is based in our three core values:
Care: Teachers make thoughtful decisions about their own actions to support student learning.
Efficacy: In their willingness to take risks and make mistakes, teachers demonstrate their belief that all people can learn at high levels and think critically.
Wonder: Teachers inspire students to lead rich, deep, and intentional lives.
Please see below for more about our elementary curriculum and content:
VOICE Elementary School primarily uses Great Minds’ Eureka math curriculum for math instruction. This curriculum is closely aligned to the Common Core Math Standards and provides our students daily practice with word problems and fluency activities. Our students are taught to grapple deeply with grade level math concepts through rigorous independent work, conversations with peers and teachers, and word problem practice and discussion. The components of a typical math lesson include:
- Fluency Activities that promote and sustain previously acquired math skills
- Application Problems where students contextualize their computational skills to grapple word problems
- Concept Development where students engage in mathematical practice with modeling from a teacher that gradually shifts tasks towards the students
- Problem Sets where students work independently or in small groups to apply the skills emphasized during Concept Development
- Student Debrief where the class engages in a discussion in which students articulate their mathematical thinking and ask each other questions about the various processes used to approach math problems.
At VOICE Elementary School, our students love to read! They are given several times throughout the day to read independently. Teachers emphasize reading strategies through short reading lessons as well as small group and one-on-one instruction. Students read a variety of texts and books throughout the day, including “just-right” books on their reading level, grade-level texts, and “passion reading” texts, or texts they feel particularly interested in. Our curriculum is aligned with the Common Core ELA Standards and includes access to rich texts, a balance of informational and fiction genres. Instruction encourages students to cite and interpret textual evidence.
The VOICE writing curriculum leverages well-regarded “mentor” texts as examples for our student authors. By exploring exemplar texts students learn about the writing process from idea generation, to mapping a piece of writing, to editing their work. Student writers at VOICE write in multiple genres including personal narrative, persuasive essay, and informational research papers. After each unit, students “publish” a piece and share it with their classmates before their work is displayed in the VOICE hallways. There are core units of study across grades K-5, including opinion, informational, and fiction writing units. For example, as early as Kindergarten students begin writing opinion pieces in a unit called “Using Words to Make a Change”, which evolves into persuasive essays and literary criticism units in fourth and fifth grade.
In Kindergarten through Grade 2, VOICE students receive daily phonics instruction through a program called Fundations. Through this curriculum, students learn letter names and sounds and begin to recognize letter combinations and patterns that will allow them to read new words and write words they know how to say. Students will also receive practice “sight words”, words that they are unable to sound out and must memorize instead.
Close Reading/Read Alouds
We believe that all students deserve access to complex, grade level texts that are engaging and rich. Through grade-level read alouds in kindergarten through grade 2 and close reading of short, rich texts in grades 3 through 5, our students gain knowledge from texts that may be above their own level. Close reading and read-alouds also include text-based discussions in which students are encouraged to develop and debate opinions about shared texts and cite evidence to support their claims.
Our social studies curriculum develops our students’ ability to interpret primary and secondary sources critically from a young age. Across kindergarten through grade 5, our students gain knowledge of our community, state, country, and the broader world around us. Students are encouraged to ask questions about the different forces at play in historical analysis, and read sources from multiple perspectives. Some examples of units of study are: I Am Unique (Kindergarten), The Northeast (Grade 3), and Early Civilization (Grade 5).
VOICE students receive science instruction using the FOSS curriculum at least twice each week. The FOSS program is designed to build students’ observational skills and create opportunities for scientific inquiry through conducting experiments. Students also practice discussion techniques and content-specific vocabulary as they share their findings with their peers. Some examples of units of study are: Sound and Light (Grade 1), Motion and Matter (Grade 3), and Living Systems (Grade 5).
All VOICE elementary students receive art instruction. In each unit, students are exposed to exemplar works from particular artists and time periods. They then learn specific techniques and skills to create their own pieces, from collages, to portraits, to sculpture, to jewelry. Student artists learn about the proper tools of different media and how to translate an idea into creation. The art department also provides students with an opportunity to grapple with the purpose of art and the role it plays in their community and the world through annual field trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Inspired by the OPEN Physical Education Curriculum, students develop their gross and fine motor skills and apply them to team sports, like soccer and volleyball, and individual sports, like dance. Physical Education classes also feature components of Health Education that convey to students the benefits of an active lifestyle.
VOICE elementary students receive daily instruction in music. While the curriculum is influenced by multiple pedagogical philosophies, it is most strongly rooted in the Kodály approach to music education. In addition to their general music class, students have courses in choir, keyboard, recorder, movement, and guitar. To read more about the music program at VOICE, click here.
VOICE provides Intervention services to support students who are struggling with grade level content. Students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are eligible to be part of an Integrated Co-Teaching Class taught by one general education teacher and one special education teacher. Other students with IEPs may receive Special Education Teacher Support Services (SETSS) that provide them with small group instruction in specific content areas. VOICE also has other services available such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and hearing therapy, and counseling. Students may qualify for intervention services if they are identified as being below grade level and in need of extra support, even if they do not have an IEP. Intervention teachers collaborate with classroom teachers to ensure that students with special needs and students below grade level benefit from all of the available resources at VOICE.