Transitioning from the Primary Division to the Intermediate Division in Grade 3, children are building on the solid foundation of the content and processes they experienced in Kindergarten through Grade 2. In the Intermediate Division the shift of responsibility changes from the hands of the parents and teachers to the students. Teachers scaffold their students toward becoming independent by encouraging children to take ownership of their learning. Our structure in the Intermediate Division reflects this delicate balance we must strike as the bridge from the lower grades to the upper grades. In Grade 3, students have a lead teacher and an associate teacher in the classroom; however, Grade 4 is the first year students have one teacher in the classroom, moving them toward independence. All of the grades are located on the fourth floor, which encourages a community among Intermediate Division students and teachers. The School works on a ten-day schedule, which, in addition to three hours devoted to literacy and math every day, provides time for visual art, dance, class meeting, music, science, Spanish, spelling and social studies.
The social studies content of our curriculum often brings context to the concepts children are studying. The Intermediate Division is the first time children experience history as a unit of study. Beginning in Grade 3, students learn about the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance and immigration. In Grade 3 they transition to study of American Colonialism and Native Americans. In Grade 5, students look at the ancient civilizations of China and Greece, which launches the Middle Division study of cities.
Our academically diverse population requires all teachers to meet the needs of a wide range of students. Our need to remediate as well as challenge our students is imperative to our goal in the intermediate grades of creating independent, self-regulated learners. Differentiating instruction takes many forms within the classroom. Student needs are determined through ongoing assessments. Teachers group students based on their changing needs. It is the responsibility of the classroom teachers, with support from the learning specialist, to adapt to all types of learners.
Third-, fourth- and fifth-graders are given an opportunity to direct their own learning through academic goal setting. M.A.P. goals, also known as My Achievement Plan goals, are developed through a partnership among parents, teachers and child in the classroom and during conferences. Students direct their own conferences in the spring and present evidence of their best work. Another way students take ownership of their learning is through individual digital portfolios. The entries in their portfolios give children the opportunity to reflect upon their learning in many different disciplines and make connections among them. Peers, teachers and parents elevate each child’s understanding through questions and comments made available through their portfolio in an online blog.
In the intermediate grades we have a literacy liaison, math liaison and learning specialist devoted to Grades 3, 4 and 5. Classroom teachers schedule weekly meetings with the liaisons to discuss students and grade-level objectives, plan units of study, add resources, and learn new approaches to math, reading and writing. Children experience standardized tests (ERBs) for the first time in the Intermediate Division beginning in Grade 3. While ERBs are only another window through which to see our students' progress, they do provide insight to the programmatic health of our curriculum.
Teachers of all disciplines collaborate to implement a concept- and skills-based integrated curriculum, in order to give children a balanced academic experience. Teachers meet once a week for an hour to plan curriculum and talk about students. During this time, teachers share their discipline’s goals, objectives and essential questions, and look to make cross-disciplinary connections.
Intermediate teachers subscribe to the constructivist learning theory, where students acquire new knowledge by connecting prior experiences. This occurs through peer interaction, discovery and teacher facilitation. Teachers involve students in the curriculum by modifying units to accommodate interests and questions, as well as offering students choice in how they represent their new understandings. Integration happens throughout the day and also once during the ten-day schedule in the form of an Integrated Block. During this time, also known as iBlock, all members of the grade-level team and all students spend two hours engaged in focused experience.