Lower House

Link Community Charter School - Core Curriculum

Link Community Charter School prides itself on its strong academic program which prepares students for entrance as well as success into great high schools and beyond. But before that, we must also make certain that students entering the school in the 5th grade have all of the basics they need. Great emphasis is lace on reading, writing and math in the Lower School to prepare our students for the rigor of the Upper House. Aligned with the Common Core standards, the NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards and Next Generation Science Standards, the Lower School program includes:

Link Community Charter School places primary importance on language and literacy, as essential tools for the human experience. The English language arts curriculum aims to establish competence in reading and writing, build critical language skills, and develop important communication skills, including listening, speaking, and oral presentation. The English language arts program helps students gain increased confidence and develops the skills necessary for college and career readiness in the 21st century global community.

In the 5th and 6th Grades, Link uses a holistic approach to meeting these goals and focuses on foundational skills in each area, devoting 140 minutes daily to do so, with substantial scaffolding and instructional support. In the 7th and 8th grades, English language arts is presented in two separate but interrelated classes: literature and composition, with a deep exploration and regular practice into the essential skills found in each area, devoting 90 minutes daily in total to students furthering developing their crafts in increasingly independent work settings. Throughout students’ experience with the English language arts curriculum, they are asked to work with texts with increasing complexity and variety, to grow their comprehension of what they read, to raise the sophistication of their analysis and response to what they read.

Given Link Community School’s long experience with seeing students arrive in the 7th grade without the requisite building blocks in the English language and with serving students from a variety of school settings and multiple school districts, the 5th and 6th grade program is developed to meet students where they are to remediate and to bridge the gaps. The goal is that by the end of the 6th grade, students are on or above grade level.

During their 5th and 6th grade experiences, students build essential foundational skills with strong guidance and regular, frequent practice. Teachers use a variety of tools, including Wilson Reading System, to build, remediate, and develop reading comprehension and fluency skills through shared and guided reading, phonemic awareness and word recognition, word study, and vocabulary development. Teachers also build, remediate, and further develop essential grammar skills by increasing students’ awareness and use of the systems or rules of the English language, including parts of speech, capitalization, spelling, sentence structure, syntax, and word usage.

Mathematics
Math literacy is at the forefront of Link Community School’s academic priorities as an essential skill and knowledge base for college and career readiness in the 21st century.  Link Community Charter School’s approach to math is focused on deepening conceptual understanding. It is critical that students understand concepts at a depth necessary to encounter new problems, while learning skills to augment this understanding.  It is not enough to memorize the rules or steps necessary to solve an equation, students must understand the foundation for such rules.

Using Engage NY’s math curriculum and assessments, as well as additional resources and manipulative materials, Link’s 5th and 6th grade mathematics curriculum focuses on (1) developing fluency with addition and subtraction of fractions, and developing understanding of the multiplication of fractions and of division of fractions in limited cases (unit fractions divided by whole numbers and whole numbers divided by unit fractions); (2) extending division to two-digit divisors, integrating decimal fractions into the place value system and developing understanding of operations with decimals to hundredths, and developing fluency with whole number and decimal operations; and (3) developing understanding of volume. Because students have come to Link Community Charter School without grade level math skills, the experience begins with a comprehensive assessment on the skills necessary to begin 5th grade math, essentially looking at skills to be developed in K through 4. Based on this pre-assessment, students will either begin at grade level or where they are with the aim that they complete the two years at grade level. The second teacher in the classroom facilitates small group instruction to help close gaps for students beginning below grade level.

Social Studies
In preparation for a complex global society and with the expectation that 21st century learners will need new competencies, Link’s social studies curriculum looks to develop students who apply content knowledge, acquire citizenship skills, and work together with others.

Grade 5. Student in grade 5 will explore world geography enabling students to discover people and places on the planet, as well as geographic concepts and skills. Students are asked to apply knowledge of spatial relationships and other geographic skills to understand human behavior in relation to the physical and cultural environment. The course will also explore civics, enabling students to know, understand, and appreciate the values and principles of American democracy and the rights, responsibilities, and roles of a citizen in the nation and the world; as well as explore government structures used elsewhere and build a greater understanding of other peoples and cultures.

Grade 6. Under development for the first 6th grade students in the fall of 2015.

Science
Link Community Charter School strives to develop students who are scientifically literate; thus, “possessing the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision-making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity.” Link strives to develop a conceptual understanding of the science content that is vital for success in the twenty-first century. The process of scientific inquiry, experimentation and technological design are constant threads throughout the four year program that focuses as much as “what” is known as it does on “how” it is known. Link Community Charter School’s science program is laboratory based, providing students with regular independent student practice.

Grade 5,  Earth Science. Students study objects in the universe, history of the Earth, properties of Earth materials, tectonics, volcanoes and earthquakes, energy in earth systems, climate and weather, biochemical cycles, the atmosphere, our solar system, stars and galaxies. Students will engage in hands of science inquiry, lab experiments, and explore earth science in a global and universal domain as well as understanding these topics and impact on our local and state regions.

Grade 6.  Sustainability. Students explore issues relating to sustainability, building skills necessary for a rapidly changing planet. Topics will include but are not limited to recycling, renewable energy, sustainable farming practices (with the use of a school garden), and carbon footprints. This course will advance a student’s basic understanding of the dynamics of human-environmental systems; facilitate the design, implementation, and evaluation of practical interventions that promote sustainability in particular places and contexts; and improve linkages between relevant research and innovation communities on the one hand, and relevant policy and management communities on the other.

Health 

Grade 5. To be ready to learn and to achieve their fullest potential, children need to be well nourished and physically active. In order to enhance physical, mental, emotional, and social health, students need to acquire the knowledge and skills to make healthy food choices and engage in lifelong physical activity. Mental, emotional and social wellbeing is a foundation for building good health which includes a sense of security, identity, belonging, purpose and competence in order to strive toward a healthy and productive life. Students will understand that the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs has major implications in the lifelong health of individuals. Implications include the effects, influences, prevention and treatment of the use of alcohol, tobacco products, and other types of drugs on the body. A healthy family unit is vital to the wellbeing and successful development of children and youth. Growth and development includes the stages of life, and changes in relationships with others that accompany social development and the aging process.

Grade 6. Under development for the first 6th grade students in the fall of 2015.

Physical Education 
Students take a physical education class twice per week for the duration of their Link experience which looks to develop knowledge and skills around two key areas: motor skill development and fitness. Improving and maintaining strength, flexibility, and endurance are a primary focus. In order to improve their overall physical fitness, students will study heart rate and the body mass index. Practicing key values of discipline, determination, and sportsmanship will be encouraged and required. Through engaging and strenuous physical activity, students will construct a sense of universal respect and a positive attitude toward physical activity.

Grade 5.  Students learn manipulative skills with an emphasis on improving accuracy and distance while efficiently manipulating objects by using body parts or implements. For example, they stop a kicked ball by trapping it with a foot and strike a dropped ball with a racket or paddle. They learn and practice offensive and defensive skills. Students create and then perform dances with intentional changes in speed and direction and rhythmic routines that involve manipulating an object. They learn fitness concepts, such as the principles of training, and how to increase their aerobic capacity. They demonstrate how to set and monitor achievable short-term and long-term goals for improved physical fitness. Students assess their health-related physical fitness and increase the amount of time and the intensity of their physical activity. They learn to work cooperatively with and respect others with differing abilities.

Grade 6. Under development for the first 6th grade students in the fall of 2015.

Technology
The Technology course for the Lower House is an exploratory course to learn the basics of keyboarding, information literacy, word- processing, excel, and multi-media. Students will also learn about internet safety, cyber bullying and social, legal and ethical issues related to use of technology, including acceptable use and copyright. They will put their skills to use through projects and coursework in their core and other co-curricular classes.

Performing Arts
Through dramatic exercises, students will gain exposure and practice with life skills that will directly support their behavior in class and out of class.

Creative Drama, grade 5. This course, with a non-expositional orientation, will allow students to develop skills needed in the classroom and beyond: listening, reflex and response, reflection, group work and collaboration using dramatic exercises. Non-judgmental attitudes will be developed so that students are encouraged to problem solve and approach creatively tasks or prompts while the instructor facilitates, rather than directs. With an emphasis on pretending and imaging, this first course in Creative Drama helps students develop a comfort level with self exploration and risk-taking

Creative Drama, grade 6. This course continues and moves forward from the previous year’s curriculum, with a performance aspect, to explore dramatic techniques and students are asked to develop voice, body, and facial expression, as well as discover theater terms and techniques.

Fine Art
Using the Discipline Based Art Education approach, Link’s art program is based on the philosophy that art is a universal language that transcends time, belonging to everyone, which is spoken by people of every time and every culture. This language communicates and creates, helping students know themselves and relate their experiences to the world beyond the classroom. To master this language, students will be exposed to artistic works, learn how to view artistic works, learn how to estimate their qualities and learn to appreciate or enjoy their artistic appeals. Each art lesson includes four essential components: history, criticism, production, and aesthetics.

Grade 5. This course provides the introduction to art elements and principles of design through a variety of simple projects.
Grade 6. This course provides increased complexity with projects and artists.

Music
Delivered in partnership with Jazz House Kids (JHK), the music program provides students the highest quality music education possible. JHK works within the existing framework of national and state music education standards while also energizing the curriculum with “The Jazz Across the Curriculum” philosophy, the program is designed to bring music learning to students in a new and exciting way. Every student will receive instruction in music performance, history and theory in a way that ties the knowledge to all facets of their in-school and out‐of‐school education. The class focuses on ways to bring the music alive and strives to make it relevant to the students by looking at music within a larger context of social, economic, musical, historical, technological and political viewpoints. The Lower House program focuses on the use of recorders and the chorale element.