Carson Elementary’s academic programming model is both unique and exemplary within Denver Public Schools. It is our privilege as a school to not only serve our K-5 classrooms, but to also house the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center-Based Program.
At Carson Elementary, we know that each child has unique needs, strengths, styles, and approaches to learning. In order to create environments in our classrooms that are inclusive and best support each child, our teachers utilize a small-group instructional model for core instruction. Our core instruction is fully aligned to the Common Core State Standards through our collaborative backwards planning processes. This means that students spend time in collaborative groups alongside similar skilled peers in order to receive a rigorous level of instruction, tailored to their performance levels. Students also spend time during their instructional day in mixed groupings engaged in learning connected to our Common Core State Standards. Through this mixed grouping model, our teachers are able to differentiate instruction for our students who are high achieving, on track, and needing more support.
Our teachers receive training from our Special Education team in order to better implement individualized scaffolds, accommodations, and modifications in the classroom.
In addition to this training, our district Gifted and Talented Coordinators have partnered with us to train our staff in utilizing various strategies to increase the depth and complexity of tasks and learning, differentiation and Cluster Grouping.
Every child at Carson Elementary has an individualized academic experience so that they can grow and excel in all areas of learning.
At Carson we platoon in grades 2-5, which means our teachers specialize in a content area. Second through fourth grade students rotate to three different classrooms throughout the day: literacy, math, and science/social studies. Our science and social studies teachers embed writing instruction at each of these grade levels. When teachers specialize in a specific content area they are able to focus on creating powerful lessons to engage our students and help them excel. Each block includes dedicated time for social emotional learning with each teacher. Fifth grade traditional classes rotate to two teachers: literacy/social studies and math/science. Kindergarten, first grade, and fifth grade HGT Magnet classes are self-contained, where students have the same teacher for core content areas throughout the day.
At Carson we strive to have joyful, rigorous, and personalized learning environments. Teachers focus on the implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) while engaging students in purposeful academic lessons in order to foster 21st century learners. We value technology, student academic discourse, collaboration, critical thinking, and a love of learning in every classroom environment!
It is a priority in Denver Public Schools that all students who are learning English as a second language are supported at all times and in all settings. This is why all DPS teachers are required to take a series of ELA certification courses. Our teachers are all trained in supporting the language, vocabulary, and content knowledge of our students learning English. In addition to this support, our students see our ELA teacher every day for specific instruction based on their current levels of speaking, reading, writing, and listening.
A research-based curriculum of phonemic and phonological awareness lessons. Phonemic awareness is the ability to understand that spoken words are made up of individual sounds called phonemes, and the science of reading tells us that phonemic awareness is one of the best early predictors for reading success.
An intensive, sequential phonics-based system teaches the basics of word formation before whole meanings. The OG approach uses a multisensory approach and utilizes the three learning modalities through which people learn—visual, auditory and kinesthetic.
Bridges is a comprehensive math curriculum that blends direct instruction, structured investigation and open exploration in order to engage students in meaningful mathematics discussion and discovery. Learn More about Bridges.
Carson has an incredible Special Education Team committed to meeting the needs of our unique learners. We believe strongly in an inclusion model and work towards students being in the general education classroom as much as possible, while ensuring their needs are consistently met. We have a phenomenal Mild Moderate teacher who serves students through both push-in and pull-out models. Our related service providers, such as the speech-language therapist, occupational therapist, vision specialist, and physical therapist serve students on an itinerant basis. Students receive services according to their individual goals and services as outlined in their Individualized Education Program.
Carson’s core curricula include: Expeditionary Learning, Orton Gillingham, Bridges Mathematics, Amplify Science, InquireEd Social Studies, and Zones of Regulation. Each curriculum has a differing scope and sequence and is modified through data cycles within each grade-level team to ensure they meet the rigor of grade-level standards. At the onset of each module or unit, grade-level teams meet to create a backwards plan to extend, modify, or compact lessons to meet the diverse needs of every student. Foundationally, each curriculum supports teachers as they create exemplars and success criteria in their instruction.
The shifts between remote and in person instruction this year have challenged our staff to develop their technological skills, using our curriculum as a foundation on which to build adaptable lessons using the Seesaw and Google platforms accessible to all students. Our strong weekly data cycles have allowed teams to collaborate and draw on the experiences and successes of other staff members in this new environment.
Instructionally, Carson uses intentional small groups to meet the needs of our learners. We have continued to refine and hone our practices based on regular data cycles of reflection, analysis, and adaptation of instructional practices. What distinguishes Carson is our purpose: to meet the needs of each individual learner through small group instruction in each domain. Our primary drivers of design improvement, data analysis, differentiated instruction, and feedback lead to our expert instruction.
We have identified past inequitable practices and have worked to develop solutions, including small group instruction, which allows us to teach groups for support, on track, and extension of standards mastery. We can identify what mastery looks like within a unit or module, as well as over the course of a year. For example, third grade math includes a standard to “multiply and divide within 100”. Mastery of this standard is different in August, January, and May. In addition, for each small group, teachers can ensure that a student needing support to reach this standard is also being exposed to rigorous strategies used by students working on standards extension.
For the 20/21 school year, our instructional skill sets have been continuously challenged by the ever-shifting environment. Teachers have remained flexible and vigilant to provide high-quality instruction to our students. Both school-wide and by grade-level we have worked to shift our instructional practices. Explicit instruction, for example, is key for young readers working on developing phonemic awareness. In the upper elementary grades, instruction includes project-based learning as students develop their own solutions to problems in their community.
Carson’s primary use of assessment is to drive our small group instruction and modify what is needed for individual students. At the onset of a unit or module, we use pre-assessment data to help inform upcoming instruction. Then, we start a weekly data cycle process to analyze data and adjust instruction through a final post-assessment. We also spend this time designing tasks that are rigorous enough to meet the standards and that allow students to engage in productive struggle. Design starts with the curriculum as a foundation and we modify accordingly. Modifications can include using supplemental materials from platforms such as Illuminate and iReady or writing our own exemplars using standards from the grade-level above and vertical student trajectory.
A unique aspect of our assessment is how directly connected it is into the immediate adjustment and implementation of instruction. We strive to keep our small groups flexible as each student has a different level of mastery of standards within a domain. Therefore, by using targeted assessments, we can hone in on student strengths and shift groups consistently. This model remains adjustable and can shift to meet the needs of each grade-level team and our development.