Brisas teachers implement Kyrene’s board-adopted curriculum which aligns with the 2010 Arizona State Standards. Refinements to the curriculum are ongoing through the work of the district’s Curriculum and Assessment Council as well as the Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies Steering Committees. Brisas has a representative on each of these committees, selected for their leadership and expertise. Committee members meet regularly to discuss student learning needs, best practices, and current research, then communicate information back to staff. Grade level team leaders work with our principal and coaches to assure clear articulation among grade level teachers and across grade levels. Although the state mandates full implementation of the new standards by 2013-2014, Brisas has already fully implemented the Mathematics and English Language Arts standards in K-2nd grade and transitionally implemented in 3rd-5th grade, using curriculum maps as pacing guides. Our goal is for Brisas students to be fully prepared for the 2014 national assessments (PARCC) in both content areas.
Below is an overview of our curriculum:
Reading and Writing
Using Harcourt Trophies, a literature-based program, Brisas teachers integrate reading, phonics, spelling, language, and writing skills. Other resources used to elicit higher-level thinking skills include 6+1 Writing Traits®, Thinking Maps®, trade books for literature studies, and various web-based learning tools. One unique innovation is our digital literacy workstations, which are aligned to the Harcourt stories enhancing vocabulary, fluency, comprehension and phonemic awareness as well as critical thinking skills needed for 21st century. To support the reading curriculum, our students participate in a Read-a-Thon in September, logging thousands of hours of reading! Our Parent Satisfaction Survey (spring 2011) results showed 91% of parents felt the Reading and Writing curriculum was appropriate for their children.
The 2010 Arizona State Math Standards are robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that young people need for success in college and careers. At Brisas, teachers are trained in Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI), a research-based approach that focuses on analyzing children's mathematical thinking and using it as a basis for instruction in the domains of addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, base-ten concepts, multi-digit operations, algebra, geometry and fractions. Brisas uses the Investigations in Number, Data, and Space® resources for all grade levels. Investigations® is designed to help every child understand fundamental ideas of number and operations, geometry, data, measurement and early algebra. Students also focus on computational fluency with whole numbers, a major goal of our math program. Teachers continually strive to elicit higher level thinking from students with an emphasis on problem solving. Teachers also utilize Britannica SmartMath and DreamBox Learning, two on-line intervention resources which provide an individualized math curriculum by means of an engaging and effective game experience. Our Parent Satisfaction Survey (spring 2011) results showed 85% of parents felt the Mathematics curriculum was appropriate for their children.
Our science program is inquiry-based, capturing a child’s innate curiosity with the natural world. Teachers support student inquiries, facilitate student discussion, encourage problem solving, and model the scientific method. They use customized resource materials as well as multimedia and hands-on experiments. Virtual labs allow students to conduct experiments in unique ways. For example, students can observe life cycle changes of various insects (2nd grade), see inside the earth to watch an earthquake or volcanic eruption (3rd grade), or manipulate components to construct an electric circuit (4th grade). Life science units in specific grades include observing live organisms (always a favorite with children). Our Parent Satisfaction Survey (spring 2011) results showed 88% of parents felt the Science curriculum was appropriate for their children.
The focus of social studies instruction at Brisas is to develop the academic content and skills in the interrelated disciplines of history, geography, civics/government, and economics that are essential to an understanding of human experience, past and present. Social studies learning is demonstrated through cross-curricular connections and technology integration via products, performances, and celebrations. We celebrate Constitution Day with a school-wide assembly, speeches, and musical performances. Families share stories and pictures of their veterans; we honor their service on a special bulletin board. Students write letters to active-duty military personnel. Kindergarten students and administrators dress up for a Thanksgiving Feast. Our 3rd and 4th graders research historical figures and present their reports in a Wax Museum. Our 3rd graders create PowerPoint™ slideshows of landforms, while our 4th graders use Publisher™ to create brochures about Arizona, highlighting historical events, government leaders, and state symbols. All grades learn basic economic principles in the Junior Achievement program. Our Parent Satisfaction Survey (spring 2011) results showed 92% of parents felt the Social Studies curriculum was appropriate for their children.
Brisas students are provided opportunities to create and use different forms of art in a variety of mediums. All K-5th grade students receive 45-minutes art instruction weekly from a highly qualified certified teacher. Students take a project idea from planning to development by applying 21 century media, techniques and processes. Every K-5th grade student learns about different artists, styles and works through participating in the Art Masterpiece program presented by parent volunteers. Each spring, we celebrate our young artists as thousands of student “masterpieces” are displayed during our annual Art Walk, which is attended by a majority of our Brisas families. Our Parent Satisfaction Survey (spring 2011) results showed 91% of parents felt the Art curriculum was appropriate for their children.
Brisas students learn music through song, dance, and instruments. Students also learn to read music and to play recorders, multiple xylophones, and marimbas. Our music curriculum is implemented using a program called Gameplan™, which sequences musical skills and objectives of the National Standards for Arts Education. It embraces several philosophies, including the principles of Orff Schulwerk and the Kodaly approach to reading rhythm and melody. Brisas offers three annual Music Performances for kindergarten, 3rd and 5th graders. In addition, Brisas offers a highly skilled percussion group of 24 4th-5th graders called the Mallet Masters, who perform at school functions and multiple venues in our community. Music appreciation is further enhanced through a strong partnership with our feeder schools, Aprende Middle School Choir & Band and Corona del Sol High School Steel Drum Corp, which perform each year for all students at special school assemblies.
Brisas is committed to creating a positive learning environment that instills, promotes, and motivates each student to personally value a healthy and physically active lifestyle to enhance the quality of his or her daily life. Our PE Coach models enthusiasm for fitness and physical activity. Lessons and units focus on physical activities that promote a healthy, active lifestyle, using the techniques developed by Robert Pangrazi (Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children, 2003). All K-5th grade students apply what they’ve learned in two special school events, Turkey Trot and Field Day. To encourage students to become self-directed and personally accountable for their own fitness, our PE coach started a Running Club during lunch recess on Wednesdays. In addition, Brisas has a special program that promotes character and fitness, called Girls On The Run, for 3rd-5th grade girls. Our Parent Satisfaction Survey (spring 2011) results showed 86% of parents felt the P.E. curriculum was appropriate for their children.
Every week, all K-5th grade students benefit from a 30-minute library lesson and a 15-minute check-out, which provides a greater circulation of books than our local community library. We are fortunate to have a certified librarian, who teaches our students the skills they need for literature appreciation, critical use of media, and application of information and literacy skills in all content areas. She also helps teachers integrate library resources and information literacy skills into their lesson plans. Teachers can also check out additional resources from our library including cameras, camcorders, assistive technology, listening centers, audio equipment, etc. Further, our library has two state-of-the-art computer labs for students’ use.