Oysterponds elementary school officials talked with parents and residents Thursday about how the district is preparing students for college and careers by implementing the state’s new benchmarks, known as “common core” standards.
During the district’s third installment of its public series “What is 21st century education?” superintendent Dick Malone, principal Françoise Wittenburg and school reading specialist Maureen Brisotti, met with a group of residents to explain how the common core program has been integrated into the curriculum.
The topic of Thursday’s coffee hour was complex communication skills — reading for meaning and writing to learn.
Ms. Brisotti, who has been Oysterponds’ reading specialist for 18 years, described the new standards as challenging but exciting.
“I believe it’s the only way our country will become competitive,” she said before the meeting.
The group met in the school’s new literacy center, formerly the library. Instead of having just bookshelves, tables and chairs, the room has been separated into sections, including a reading area with futons donated by school board member Deborah Dumont. Another corner of the room has been transformed into a workspace where students work complete projects and homework. There’s also a computer area.
Ms. Brisotti believes the new space motivates students to read and write because of its atmosphere — a cozy spot for reading; a section stocked with supplies for creative activities; a designated area to work on the computer — and entices them to work independently.
“Independence builds self-esteem,” she said. “The more independent we can help our children be, the more control they will have of their own decisions.”
Former school board president Walter Strohmeyer agrees more rigor is needed in school curriculum, but stressed that students should have a strong understanding of reading and writing fundamentals before venturing into more complex studies.
“It’s like building a house,” he said. “If the foundation is poor, its not going to do you any good.”
Ms. Wittenburg agreed and said teachers are cautious about pushing students to read if they aren’t ready because that approach could turn them off from reading. Since a love of reading and writing isn’t typically an issue with students whose parents read to them when they are young, Ms. Wittenburg said the district is committed to focusing on early childhood education.
Mr. Malone said he believes the new reading and writing standards are the “most critical” components of the state’s core curriculum plan.
He said the district is readying students for college and careers by teaching them the difference between facts and commentary. The school is also instructing them how to write analytically about literature, rather than writing summaries about what they’ve read.
In addition, Mr. Malone said, more non-fiction has been added to the curriculum and students are learning how to research on iPads.
Mr. Malone, a former social studies teacher, said he used to clip articles from three different newspapers about a single event and make copies for his students. Now students can instantly learn about current events instantly from multiple news sources on their iPads.
But the new technology’s convenience comes with several learning challenges. With so much unfiltered information available on the Internet, Mr. Malone said students need to understand the difference between fact and opinion at a younger age and be able to detect an author’s bias.
“It used to be ‘We can’t teach the way we taught 10 years ago,’ ” he said. “I say we can’t teach the way we taught five years ago.”
Oysterponds has scheduled sessions on learning through technology for Jan. 10 and the importance of early childhood education on Feb. 7. Previous meetings addressed core curriculum standards and the school’s science, technology, engineering and math program, known as STEM.
Contact the school at 323-2410.