Curriculum Details for
Content Expert Reviewer
Shari Dickstein, doctoral candidate in Educational Policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is also an independent instructional consultant. A former New York City high school teacher and adjunct professor at New York University, she now works with urban school districts (New York, Boston and Prince George's County) in a variety of ways to improve teaching quality and instruction at the systemic level. She has co-created instructional manuals on literacy and "writing across the curriculum" for students at Baruch College (an affiliate of the City University of New York) and on best practices for developing teachers for urban youth (for Boston's Teacher Residency program). Currently, she is working with Harvard's Teacher Education program to develop curriculum and on an evaluation of alternative teacher education programs in Prince George's County (Maryland).
- Overarching goal of Fundations is to bridge language and literacy in colorful and compelling ways for elementary-aged students.
- Materials increase in intensity as higher levels are reached.
- Students are taught to read and write through engaging materials, with a critically important focus on vocabulary.
- This curricular focus on vocabulary acquisition and decoding is a key aspect of helping students become stronger readers.
- Reading and writing skills
- Vocabulary acquisition and decoding
- Independent learning and studying
- Builds self-confidence
- Hand-eye coordination
Alignment to Standards
Not explicitly aligned with any standards, but without the academic skills of spelling and reading that form the basis for this curriculum, students would be hard-pressed to master any learning standard.
- Dictation exercises, word-aloud, and read-aloud exercises provide teachers with an avenue to assess for learning and check for learning.
- Summative unit tests are also provided.
- Curriculum is highly structured, such that teachers are provided with all of the materials necessary to deliver the content effectively.
- There is little flexibility in regard to content. Teachers can elect whether or not to teach the specific content as suggested; however, given that the skills emphasized are meant to build upon one another, a huge diversion may interrupt the natural learning process for students.
- Many of the activities in the workbooks are directly linked to the stories provided by Fundations.
- While most of the instruction is teacher-directed, the emphasis on skill-building for students lends itself to a variety of student-centered, hands-on learning tasks.
Addressing Diverse Student Needs
- Teachers can tailor instruction in ways that will be most meaningful for students.
- Variety of activities allows adaptation for students of different learning styles.
Learning Styles Addressed
- Content and activities are well tailored to the developmental needs of young students.
- The curriculum is visual and can reach and adapt to a variety of learning styles.
- Interpersonal learning: Emphasis on read-aloud and using “word cards” and “syllable cards” with each other. Curriculum is interactive and allows students and teachers to interact with each other in creative ways.
- Artistic learning: The props, books, worksheets, and stories all lend themselves to opportunities for the teacher to incorporate artistic activities to enhance learning.
Strengths and Challenges
Challenges and Drawbacks
- Comprehensive curriculum; leaves no vocabulary, spelling, or reading skill unturned or unexplored.
- Materials are varied, and are simultaneously accessible for many learners and a variety of learning styles.
- Age appropriate – topics are relevant for young children, with colorful story books and engaging props.
- Parents and families also play an integral role in the Fundations curriculum. There is a “Home Support Pack” to help guide teachers through this process.
- Volume of material – manuals, books, journals, cards, DVDs, etc. – may require the teacher to take a good deal of time becoming familiar with and mastering the curriculum.
- Materials are well-suited for reading specialists or classrooms with more than one teacher.