Enhancing elementary school learning

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The word “elementary” has two seemingly conflicting definitions. For some, elementary means basic or simple as when Sherlock Holmes said, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” Yet, elementary can also mean foundational such as the periodic chart of the elements, which contains the fundamental substances which are used to create all matter. In many school districts the first definition is used to develop K-5 curriculum, keeping it simple. The Maricopa district (MUSD) has joined with districts who see the foundational definition dictating what happens in elementary school classrooms.

In the elementary grades, students are not only introduced to content but learn how to learn through life. To that end, MUSD hired Dr. Mona Berry as director of elementary and early childhood curriculum, who said she took the job because she shares the district’s goals and its emphasis on a team concept to provide necessary enhancement of the elementary grades.

What are those goals and how will they be enhanced? The goals are:

  • Graduates are ready to innovate and succeed.
  • Needed resources are available for every student.
  • Investments are made to support students and staff.
  • The community is well informed about the district’s performance.
  • The planned enhancement of curriculum focuses on language arts and mathematics.
  • Enhancements in the implementation of the literacy curriculum develop student proficiency in the six language arts: reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing and language.
  • Students engage in mathematics learning aligned to rigorous expectations that prepare them beyond isolated skills and procedural knowledge to pursue authentic, conceptual mathematical understanding and skills.

Dr. Berry perceives the MUSD effort as combining the work of school staff and district administrators to develop an elementary program that will educate the whole child while engaging students in real world concepts and problems. She sees the MUSD elementary program providing an engaging and “rich” classroom with a rigorous curriculum, and allowing students to think, collaborate and be challenged to learn to their full potential.

Murray Siegel, Ph.D., has more than 44 years of teaching experience and volunteers at Butterfield Elementary School.

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This story was first published in the November edition of InMaricopa magazine.