Math and reading: a glimpse inside Confluence Academy-South City
Math and reading: a glimpse inside Confluence Academy-South City
Posted on 09/25/2012
South City Reading

Every morning, fifth-grade students at Confluence Academy-South City spend more than an hour of dedicated time to improve skills.


Known as WIN Time, or What I Need Time, fifth-grade students work on reading or math skills.


“It is a time to work on skills the students have not mastered based on last year’s data, or from what I have seen in the class thus far,” said Carol Mendez, fifth-grade teacher.


“Typically, I will cover a skill in both reading and math by modeling a quick mini-lesson and then we will break out into small groups. I have five groups in my classroom and they rotate throughout the week,” she said.


Although the groups worked in different areas of the room, the focus for the morning was adding decimals - either at computers, on worksheets, playing decimal games, working with Mendez or using flash cards.


“While at centers, each student has a packet labeled ‘WIN Time: Centers.’ This is where they track their work and at the end of the week, I can see what centers they got to do and their work. The packet is how they are held accountable during WIN Time for the week,” said Mendez.


Down the hall, fourth-grade students in Cynthia Williams’ class were worked on a communication arts lesson, reading “A Walk in the Desert” from a textbook titled “Treasures.”


“What does main idea mean?” Williams asked. “Turn to your neighbor and whisper what you think it means.”


After a few minutes of discussions slightly above a whisper, Williams asked students to share aloud.


“The main idea is the main thing about the story” a boy replied.


“Good,” she said. “Now, what are the other things in the story to support the main idea?”


After some review and discussion, the class agreed that details are what support the main idea. They continued reading from the textbook, first by reading silently to themselves, then by reading along with Williams.


On the whiteboard, a diagram outlined the main idea and details from an earlier section of the chapter. Separated into columns, the main idea read, “Desert plants provide many animals with food and water.” The details read “a tortoise gets water from eating a plant.”

South City 4th gr
A fourth-grade student in Cynthia Williams' class reads from her textbook.


Spelling and vocabulary lists were also on the board. The spelling words are based on phonics for the week. The vocabulary words are from the readings.


Williams explained why students need to know the difference between main idea and details.


“Students need to understand the difference when they are asked to summarize what they’ve read. They also need to understand the difference so that they can understand the relationship between the two,” she said.


“As the students finish the lesson, they are expected to define main idea and detail. They are also expected to be able to identify the main idea and details of a passage,” said Williams.


Back in Mendez’s class, the displays of student work, pictures, motivational messages, books, college pennants and a poster that reads “BIG GOAL,” remind students of the importance of school.


The BIG GOAL poster states, “1.5 years growth in reading, math, science NWEA.”


Mendez explained the poster. “The poster is in our classroom because that is what is needed to close the achievement gap in our classroom. We have had many investment conversations where we discuss why we have such a goal and how we will get there. We have discussed the importance of setting goals and following through with them.”


NWEA, or Northwest Evaluation Association, is a reference test used by Confluence Charter Schools to track how successful students will be on the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) test. Mendez said students take NWEA assessments three times during the school year.


“Students who are successful on the NWEA are typically successful on the MAP,” said Mendez.


“Besides working on a daily level, we have discussed the importance of looking ahead and having a plan. Most importantly, to begin thinking about college and why it is crucial that we begin planning now,” she said.


“On one of the walls, I have pictures of students holding my college diploma, wearing a graduation cap, to visualize their college graduation. We discussed that sometimes we get pushed down with daily struggles, but when we have a clear vision of going to college, and we understand how we are getting there and why we need to go, then we will get right back up,” said Mendez.