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).
- This review covers components of both the National Edition and the State Edition for Georgia.
- Materials span grades K-12 and cover all the necessary skills and content necessary for a command of the intricacies of English.
- Includes a unit designed specifically for non-English speakers or pre-readers that is instructive and well-designed for the intended audience.
- The necessary skills and content are covered for each grade level and the information is accurate and covers much breadth.
- However, content for older grades appears does not go into great depth. The curriculum focuses on the basics.
- Letter and sound recognition skills
- Grammar skills
- Literary and expository writing
- Spelling and vocabulary
- Speaking skills
- Many other skills related to mastering the English language for students K-12.
- Structure of each unit lends itself to developing study skills by allowing students to work at their own pace, repeat sequences, etc.
- Comfort with computer navigation and use of technology.
- Visual and spatial skills.
Alignment to Standards
- Classworks State Editions are customized and aligned to state standards in Alabama, Arkansas California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
- This particular version of Classworks was aligned specifically with Georgia state standards, and covered the breadth of those standards.
- Students are assessed in many ways, including formative activity assessments, Quick Quizzes, and projects.
- Also, students can send documents or quizzes that they complete directly to their teachers so the teachers can review their work, comment on it, and send it back to the students. This can help students see their strengths as well as where they may need to improve.
- Schools, teachers, and students can create and store a portfolio of student work. With this tool, learning is cumulative and teachers and students have the ability to see knowledge develop in a variety of ways over a particular unit.
- Teacher controls how pre-defined the structure of the curriculum is.
- Classworks offers the option of using an entirely structured and pre-designed curriculum.
- Teachers can also manually design instructional units to customize instruction to match their curricular requirements as well as the students’ individual needs.
- There is also flexibility in terms of content. Teachers can either have the curriculum pick content based on the skill and the ability levels of students or teachers can elect the specific content or topic to be taught, as well as which programs to use to teach the topic.
- Lessons can be either teacher or student-directed. One option is for students to choose which activities to do, and the immediate feedback offered to students through the software can be empowering, enabling them to improve their own performance.
Addressing Diverse Student Needs
- Classworks can be tailored to teacher, student, school, and state needs.
- Teachers and schools can input test and performance scores of students prior to classroom use, set a target level of achievement, and the program will design an appropriate content sequence.
- Teachers can tailor instruction in ways that will be most meaningful for their classroom or individual students.
- Each particular concept or content area skill is accompanied by a host of software packages so teachers are not tied to one particular product.
Learning Styles Addressed
- The use of sound effects, such as buzzers, bells, sounds, and slow narration, as well as animated graphics are engaging and developmentally appropriate for younger students. However, these features may be less motivating for older students.
- Movement/spatial learning: Some of the activities included appeal to visual and spatial learners.
- The curriculum designed explicitly for non-native speakers and pre-readers includes culturally relevant material.
- Diversity is not otherwise addressed in this curriculum.
Strengths and Challenges
Challenges and Drawbacks
- Allows teachers to design the scope and sequence to best meet the needs of their students.
- Allows selection of pre-designed scope and sequencing linked directly to state learning standards and goals.
- Variety of learning tools and programs for any given unit.
- Immediate feedback given to students on their work.
- Due to the pre-design of assessments, there is no level that includes questions of increasing difficulty within a single grade level for the student. Students continue to practice the same skill rather than being challenged with questions of increasing difficulty.