Children enter The Mill School with a wide variety of schooling and educational experiences. Some have been educated at home, some have attended independent schools, and others have transferred from local public schools.
All students are welcomed into a nurturing home-like environment where individual growth is honored and supported.
Literacy and Math Workshops
Daily academic subjects at The Mill School consist of Literacy and Math. During academic exercises, the class is split by age group. The younger children, The Ravens, work with Amanda, and the older children, The Kingbirds, work with Laurie. We try to maintain roughly an even number of children in each academic group.
Math and literacy exercises engage students through movement, play, drawing, and written practice. Read below for more specifics!
Our youngest group enjoys daily movement in both Literacy and Math workshops. This physical component of workshops engages a connection between the child's whole body and mind to support the incorporation of their newly developing academic skills. Movement exercises may include crossing the mid-line, balancing while walking forwards or backwards on the balance beam, crawling, jumping, crab walking, forming letters with their bodies, et cetera.
The Ravens practice Literacy through art, movement, writing, and listening to stories. When children are ready, they are supported in reading books at appropriate levels.
Every school day includes time for a Read Aloud story. Before Read Aloud each day, the children take turns recapping what happened previously in the story, using vivid details and language as they share their recollections. One child begins the recap and then, when ready, calls on another student to continue adding details. In this way, the group creates a shared summary and memory of what has happened in the book.
Throughout the year the children also enjoy nursery rhymes, verses, alliterative rhymes, and poetry. We often work on reciting, and thus memorizing, poems combining the words with rhythm and movement.
Writing and Drawing
Drawing is an important component of early literacy and writing, and offers the children a chance to capture what they heard in our Read Aloud stories. These drawings create a fun dialog within the group as we remember details and try to draw them.
The content of the written work depends on each individual child. Some work on letter sound recognition and writing upper case and lower case letters, while others work on sounding out words in a sentence with Amanda's help. Others write summaries of the day’s story. As with reading, written exercises are tailored to each child's unique development.
Math work takes many shapes during the Raven's workshop time. Children work individually at their own pace on daily computation sheets, progressing through the four processes (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) and integrating algebra throughout as appropriate. Help is provided, as needed, from the teacher.
To compliment individual work time, the Ravens come together as a group to play a variety of math games, and practice counting and skip-counting verses with rhythmical movement. With these exercises, the children are not only reinforcing Math skills, but also playfully learning to work together and support each other for the group’s success.
The Ravens also work together on different Math projects. Past projects include the creation of “stores” with priced items, where the children sell and purchase items to gain a sense of our money system while counting, adding, subtracting and having fun. We have also worked with fractions through measuring and baking. We have worked with weight, creating our own balance scales and measuring and weighing objects. Measuring has come from using our own bodies as measuring tools then moving on to rulers, yard sticks, et cetera. Math projects are designed to create a playful place for the children to work together to share their knowledge, while also learning from others in a fun, real world environment.
Our older group builds on the foundation they have developed in the earlier grades. Read Aloud continues each day, starting with the creation of a shared summary at the beginning of each day's reading. As we read, we stop to discuss issues of interest. The Kingbirds share stories from their own lives that relate to the text. They notice and talk about issues that are relevant to them, including topics such as growing up, stereotypes, friends, and families. We also discuss techniques that authors use such as foreshadowing, great first lines, creating rich imagery, effective use of dialogue, and more.
The Kingbirds also gain practice with reading by being given time to read silently and independently. We engage in occasional "reading interviews", where Laurie sits with each child individually, to listen to the child read out loud from their current text, and to talk about what the students are reading. Good books are an important part of the classroom dialogue, and informal book recommendations to both classmates and teachers are a frequent part of the class culture. More formally, each Wednesday one student from the Kingbirds recommends a book to the group and writes a small review. The children have also participated in book clubs, where they read a shared text in a small group, discuss the book as they read together, and then create a final project when the book is complete.
During Writer's Workshop, the older students are encouraged to become personally involved with their writing, while also continuing to work on mastering the conventions necessary for written communication. We work together as a writing group, supporting each other in making individual progress and creating great works. The children write to express themselves, and practice writing a variety of genres. They write independently, edit their own work, engage in peer editing conferences, and read their writing to the group. Some of the written pieces are taken through the entire publication process, and ultimately published and shared at a publishing party at the end of the year.
The Kingbirds are spend time their mathematical computation skills each day. Each child progresses at their own pace, working to master multiple digit multiplication and division, and to gain familiarity with algebraic equations, manipulating fractions, decimals, and percents, deepening their sense of large numbers, and working with graphs and tables. Math projects have included investigations of form drawing as it relates to geometry, an exploration of place value and number sense with very big and very small numbers, and practice with patterns and algebraic functions. Math projects offer a time for the older children to explore concepts and construct personal knowledge based on purposeful engagement with mathematical concepts.