What does a day at Silver Oaks Cooperative School like?
We believe that a successful classroom is well planned, and still flexible to the needs of children. Each day is a work in progress, made by the teachers, children, and other adults in the room. We strive to teach our curriculum, but never hesitate to pause in order to address the social and emotional needs of the children. We believe that children are people, equal to adults and deserving of our highest respect. We also believe that children are learning how to navigate their worlds, and it is our job to coach them. The following is a general idea of how a day at Silver Oaks Cooperative will flow. The start and end times for the day may change. The flow may be different for different grades:
8:45-9:00 Morning Work: Children ease into their day with independent work. In the lower grades, the teacher may set out some manipulatives, book boxes, or journals with a prompt on the tables. In the higher grades, children may continue work from the previous day, do a math or literacy warm up, or journal.
9:00-9:15 Morning Meeting: Class meets with the teacher for about 5-20 minutes to build classroom culture and focus their literacy work.
9:15-10:30 Literacy: Teacher spends 15-20 minutes with small groups of students who are working on the same content. While teacher works with small groups, the other children work independently or with parent co-opers on their desk work and centers. Children can choose when to eat their snack beginning at 9:45.
10:30-11:00 Outdoor Work
11:00-12:00 Math Meeting & Math Centers: Students work independently or with a parent co-oper or desk work and math centers while the teacher works with small groups.
12:00-12:30 Spanish, Creative Movement, or Art: Children will enjoy a different specials class each day. Art on Monday (at 1:00, after lunch and before outdoors), Spanish on T-W-Th, and Creative Movement on Fridays (11:45-12:30)
12:30-1:30 Lunch and Outdoor Work
1:30-2:15 Writing, Project, Science, or Social Studies
2:15-3:00 Free Choice: Children can choose to play outside or in the classroom. The teacher may begin Free Play with a mini lesson in science or social studies that supports work being done in literacy and math, and will often provide an activity based on the lesson for children to try.
3:00-3:15 Closing Circle: Teacher may provide different prompts each day for children to answer as they go around the circle. For example, “What was something that was really challenging for you today?” “What did you choose to do during ___?” “Tell us one thing you noticed while you were outside today.” Children may always pass if they would like to.
What if my child is above or below grade level?
If your child is above or below grade level, we will instruct them based on their ability and regardless of their age. Teachers will have frequent contact with parents and guardians about their children’s progress. If your child is behind grade-level, we will work together to help catch your child up.
Do you test children?
We use testing sparingly and purposefully. We will keep running records in literacy, unit math and literacy exams, published writing, and quarterly portfolios. We believe testing is useful in order to guide pacing and units, but should never drive instruction.
What grades do you teach? How will you teach them? How is the classroom set up?
We have a classroom that is a total of 870 square feet with a movable dividing wall. Half of the space is home room to the Acorns (Kinder and First Graders). The other half of the space is home to the Oaks (Second and Third Graders). From 8:45-12:30, the wall is closed and Ms. Alicia teaches the Oaks and Ms. Christine teaches the Acorns. At 12:30, we open the wall and the class spends lunch together. In the afternoon, some days the whole group is together, and some days they are apart, depending on the class that is happening (i.e. Art is all together, but science and social studies are separate).
The bulk of our literacy and math instruction will be taught using the workshop model. If applicable, the teacher does a whole group mini lesson. Students work in leveled group with the teacher for 15-20 minutes, completes independent seat work, and chooses related centers or games (learning activities that help them practice concepts/skills). The co-oping parents supervise the seat work and centers while the teacher works with the smaller group. At our school, each teacher will have 5-9 students total, and may have 2-3 groups.
The small setting of our school and close proximity of our two classrooms allows for very flexible grouping and regrouping. Therefore, we won't necessarily split kids into groups by ages--instead they will go with the group that is working on the objectives they need to learn. If a students learns at a faster pace, they can easily move groups. With small groups of students, the teacher can easily stay abreast of the children's learning without spending a lot of time testing.
Most public schools use the workshop model. However, teachers generally have 20-30 kids. The small groups are still quite large, and the teacher is alone in the room. So, the teacher must supervise the kids at seat work and centers, redirect student activity, manage many transitions between groups, and spend a lot more time getting less accomplished. Because of our high adult to student ratio we anticipate being able to actually teach! :)
We use our curriculum in Literacy, Writing, Math, Social Studies, Science, Art, Movement, and Social Emotional Learning to guide our instruction. We are using Singapore Math US Edition and Fountas and Pinnell’s Baseline Assessment System to assess reading levels. Teachers collaborate to develop unit themes that integrate science and social studies.
What happens if we can no longer attend Silver Oaks at some point and transition into public school or another private school? Will my child be prepared?
Yes! Your child will be prepared to achieve academically in another school (and probably more advanced in a lot of areas). Our instructional standards and objectives will not deviate far from those of a traditional public school classroom. Our goal will be to teach everyone at their grade-level or higher by nationally recognized standards. It is our approach that will differ from other schools.
In our experience, a lot of the rigor schools strive for is lost in the large classroom sizes, lack of social-emotional learning, and rigidity of curriculum. Our school is designed specifically to overcome these challenges. With very small classes, strategic instruction, and classrooms that meet social and emotional needs, we have more time for unstructured indoor and outdoor play, and the ability to have true brain breaks and move our bodies!
Do you give homework?
We will ask you to read nightly with your child. We will send home a calendar of optional suggested activities to do with your child in order to reinforce classroom learning. Any additional homework will be able to be completed independently.
What grades do you teach?
We opened September 4th 2018 and are serving children in grades Kindergarten through Third. In order to enroll in our school, your child MUST turn 5 by September 1st. If your child turns 5 by Nov 15th, you may apply for an exception. However, you or a caregiver will be required to stay with your child until their 5th birthday.
We plan to grow in order to accommodate community needs and the children. If you enroll your child with us now, they will be able to stay with us until at least 5th grade. We are discussing what it would mean to expand to 8th grade, but can make no commitment to do so at this point.
Can I bring my baby with me when I co-op?
No. Younger children are not allowed to accompany co-opers. Many parents will find another family to do a childcare trade with, or arrange other childcare.
Do I have to co-op in the classroom?
No. You may opt out of in-class co-oping for a fee of $2,500 per year. If you would like to co-op once every four weeks instead of once every two weeks, the fee is $1,250.
What do I need to co-op?
You will be required to complete a federal background check with fingerprinting at your own expense and provide appropriate medical forms. Trainings for working with students will be required as well. Each co-oping parent/guardian must complete all requirements.
Co-oping is a serious commitment. It should be treated as a part-time job. As a co-oping parent, you are responsible for your shift. If something comes up and you can’t make it, it is your responsibility to find a replacement. The co-opers play a very important part in the classroom.
Can my nanny or child’s grandmother co-op?
No. Only parents and legal guardians may co-op in the classroom.
How is safety addressed?
We believe keeping your child safe is one of our most important priorities. Adults will operate in pairs at all times. We will have fire, safety, and disaster plans, and scheduled drills will be conducted. Before co-oping begins, adults will receive training on safety and mandated reporting according Maryland state law. Systems are followed for checking children in and out of the school.
You have these beautiful woods surrounding the school. Are they safe? How will you use them for the school? Is the school building secure while inside? What are the requirements for adults working with children?
Above all else, we must keep the children safe! We are sending our own children here as well and we have a vested interested in safety. By the first day of school, we will have clearly outlined emergency plans that will be shared with all of membership and we will hold regular drills. The education building remains locked throughout the day. Visitors must ring a bell and be admitted by the church administrator. There is another small school in the lower level of the building, and we plan on connecting with their administrator to discuss their safety protocol. In our classrooms, co-opers will be fingerprinted and background checked, children will be signed in and out, and children will be tracked throughout the day by the teachers.
As far as safety with regards to using the woods and creek with the kids, they will be used in a controlled way. We will set limitations and teach the kids so that we can create a balance between enjoying our time in the woods and staying safe. If there are trails (or we clear a trail!), and we want to go past the church property line, we would consider that a field trip, and would notify parents beforehand. The cleared space with benches by the creek will probably be used a lot as an outdoor classroom. For free play, we are going to enhance the fenced playground (add a sand box, another climber, work toys, etc.) and use this primarily.
How do you use technology in the classroom?
We believe children generally have a lot of exposure to technology outside of the classroom. While technology can be a useful tool for learning, it is not necessary and can distract from learning the actual content and developing deep understandings. Therefore, we will limit technology in our early grade classrooms (K-2) and begin using it more as a tool in 3rd grade and beyond. Teachers will have access to audio recorders/players, an LCD projector, document camera, and computer.