Curriculum at Sassarini is tied to the new
Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Language Arts and Math.
The new standards are designed to support deep understanding, critical thinking, and practical application.
Teachers at all grades use the Treasures textbook series, as well as supplemental materials that support mastery of the Common Core standards. In Kindergarten and Grade 1, all teachers are trained in the Orton-Gillingham reading program, which uses visual, auditory, and kinesthetic strategies to assist students in mastering phonics.
Many teachers at Sassarini, especially those in Grade 5, are piloting the Daily 5/CAFÉ approach to literacy instruction. This program supports high levels of reading comprehension, engagement, and independence, and works to foster a life-long love of reading. Students rotate through five activities: Read to Self, Read to Others, Word Work, Listen to Reading, and Writing. During each activity, students are taught specific strategies that they can practice independently while reading "just right books": books matched to their interests that provide an appropriate level of challenge.
Students at Sassarini are supported by our excellent Library. New books are added each year based on student interest and teacher request. All classes have a regular Library day each week, where they can check out a variety of texts for use in class and at home.
In Common Core Math, fewer concepts are presented each year, and more time is provided for students to explore multiple ways to solve a problem, explain how they arrived at an answer, and apply new math concepts to real life situations. Students make frequent use of manipulatives, such as blocks and tiles, to visualize math concepts, and many lessons are organized around a word problem or "math task."
Expect your child to have fewer homework problems each night, and be asked to draw pictures or diagrams to show their thinking and explain their answers. Students may also share with you the "problem of the month": complex real-life problems that the whole class works on together.
Sassarini is proud to be partnering with the Silicon Valley Math Initiative (SVMI) this year for materials and teacher training. All of our teachers attend a series of workshops led by university and teacher experts, where they work collaboratively to design lessons, use common core assessments to identify areas of student strength and need, and design "re-engagement lessons" focused areas of student misconception.
Teachers at Sassarini use a combination of the Envision textbook series and supplemental materials designed for Common Core instruction, such as Math Tasks, Number Talks, and Problems of the Month.
Science at Sassarini is hands-on and interactive! Students at all grade levels participate in the Exploratorium Science program, designed to promote both inquiry-based science and literacy. Students explore a topic from their grade level standards in depth, making and recording observations. During the course of their observations, students learn the academic vocabulary and complex forms of language needed to describe what they see.
For example, students in first grade learn about insects by studying live ladybugs in all stages of development, from larvae to pupae to adult; record their findings in drawings and journals; and learn the sentence structure needed to compare and contrast each stage. They also create habitats for the adult ladybugs and ultimately release them in our school garden, relating new learning to their everyday lives.
In addition to the Exploratorium program, teachers use the California Science textbook series. They also provide a wealth of hands-on experiences through the Sonoma Ecology Center, Classroom Safari, and a wide variety of field trips, including: the Bouverie Preserve, Marine Mammal Center, Tolay Lake Regional Park, Lake Sonoma Fish Hatchery, Muir Woods, Pt. Reyes National Park, and SRJC Planetarium. In grade five, students participate in a four day Outdoor Education trip, combining nature and leadership activities.
Social Studies at Sassarini is closely tied to the Language Arts curriculum, reinforcing key standards. Teachers use the textbooks Our Communities, Our History, and Our Nation, along with supplemental materials. Experiential learning is fostered through guest speakers and field trips to locations such as the Kule Loklo Native American Village at Pt. Reyes National Park, Sonoma Mission State Historic Park, and the State Capitol in Sacramento.
At Sassarini, we have high expectations for all students: reading at grade level, mastering complex Common Core State Standards, and ultimately being well prepared for middle school, high school, college and career. However, we realize that not all students grow at the same rate, and some may need extra time and support, or may be ready for an additional challenge. To meet the individual needs of our students, Sassarini is introducing GOALS time this year.
Each grade level at Sassarini has it's own GOALS time. During this time, teachers, staff, and students are regrouped to provide several strategic support classes. For students who are English Language Learners, English Language Development (ELD) classes are provided at multiple levels so that each child receives the appropriate degree of challenge and support to reach the next ELD level. For special education students, including those in the Resource Specialist Program (RSP) or those receiving Speech Therapy, GOALS time may include small group instruction with the RSP or Speech teacher. Our Intervention Teacher works with targeted groups of students who are at the edge of reading proficiency, and need a little more support to reach grade level, and also with those who would benefit from deeper remediation. Students who are currently at or above grade level in Reading/Language Arts receive an acceleration class designed to provide an appropriate level of challenge. Our goal is to support each and every Sassarini student in reaching his or her GOALS!
All students at Sassarini receive regular music instruction through the Sonoma Valley USD's music program. In grades K-3, our credentialed music instructors visit classrooms every other week and provides a wide range of musical experiences, including rhythm, percussion, and song.
In the upper grades, music instruction becomes more specialized. Students in grade four rotate through three trimester-long music classes: choir, beginning brass, and beginning woodwinds. In grade five, students choose an area of focus: chorus, brass band, or woodwind band, and are able to select a particular instrument. Students showcase their musical skills during our Band and Chorus Concerts twice each year.
In addition to our district Music and Band teachers, Sassarini students have regular visits from Mr. Acre, who visits each class with his guitar to teach folk songs. Kindergarten students perform in our annual Winter Kinder Concert, and fourth and fifth grade students have an opportunity to participate in Opera a la Carte, performing alongside professional singers from the San Francisco Opera.
Our district team of credentialed physical education teachers provides classes each week for all grades. Our exploratory program focuses on introducing the students to a variety of fitness and physical activities that are fun and non-competitive. Basic skills are introduced and built upon as the students go through the grades. Physical education experiences include: parachute games, jump ropes, hula hoops, dance, running, rope climbing, net games (skills for badminton, tennis and volleyball) and ball games (skills for basketball and soccer).
Through the generosity of the Sonoma Plein Air Foundation, Sassarini is able to provide all students with art classes in a wide variety of mediums, taught by local artists. Art projects are jointly designed by the visiting artist and classroom teacher and include ceramics, painting with watercolors and pastels, collage, sculpture, line drawing, photography, and murals. Students explore common themes in art and literature, art in poetry, and art in the garden. Sassarini teachers also regularly incorporate art into their lessons and have access to art supplies and resources, including Sassarini's own kiln.
Through a partnership with the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, students in grades four and five travel to the museum to view current exhibits.
Our Garden Educator, Chris Everidge, provides a series of classes on all aspects of life in the garden, tied to the science curriculum at each grade level. Topics include composting and soil preparation, germinating seeds, planting, cultivating, beneficial insects, harvesting, and even cooking and eating!
Our Computer Educator, Maria Olascoaga, collaborates with teachers to create lessons that integrate computer skills with grade level curriculum. Topics range from keyboarding and word processing to using presentation software (PowerPoint, Prezi), conducting Internet research, and graphic design.