Embracing an Inclusive and Challenging Curriculum - KIPP Chicago Public Schools

The Whole Child Review Issue No. 11, February 2023

Embracing an Inclusive and Challenging Curriculum

Virtual Reality Pilot: Prisms 

After a successful pilot in the Spring of 2022, KIPP Chicago was brimming with curiosity and excitement about the limitless possibilities of recent technological advancements. We hosted a Futurism 101 conversation which regional leaders from KIPP Chicago and KIPP Metro Atlanta attended to make connections, share ideas, and learn from each other about the possibilities ahead. This gathering catalyzed the creation of professional development opportunities for our teachers to learn more about how to maximize the current VR platform opportunities. In November, all participating math teachers gathered for professional development ahead of our semester two launch. 

We are wired to learn experientially: through perceiving, seeing, doing, and moving. As technology advances, virtual reality has the opportunity to provide students with immersive, learn-by-doing experiences. As we continue into the new semester, we are excited to continue to roll out the Middle School Math Prisms VR curriculum, which includes units on ratios, creating linear equations, systems of equations, Pythagorean theorem, and perimeter. Prisms is the first-ever spatial learning platform for math, where students learn through movement, discovery, and purpose. 

The Science of Reading 

At KIPP Chicago, our mission is inextricably linked to students developing into competent and confident readers. Embedded in our mission is the core belief that literacy is essential to students pursuing their chosen path, leading fulfilling lives, and, perhaps most importantly, creating a more just world. Given the history of the country and city we teach in, and the identities of our students, we believe that fostering critical literacy in our students is not only achievable for all KIPPsters, but also non-negotiable.

This means that, by the end of 8th grade, every KIPPster will be critical, compelling, and thoughtful readers, writers, speakers, and listeners. Our literacy program must ensure students are not only on grade level and prepared for a rigorous academic experience in high school, but also stretch their knowledge, perspective, and character to understand themselves and the world around them deeply. We achieve this vision through work in kindergarten through 8th grade, with each grade band representing a critical step toward developing students’ literacy skills.

Early literacy work focuses on building “code breakers”—equipping students with automatic and fluent word recognition skills in each strand of Scarborough’s Reading Rope (Phonological Awareness, Decoding, and Sight Recognition). Spelling and writing are critical components of instruction, as these form the building blocks for encoding and future writing growth. We rely on a structured approach to literacy to systematically and explicitly deliver instruction grounded in the Science of Reading. Additionally, students’ natural curiosity is fostered to build more knowledge of the world around them and lay the foundation for a lifetime of learning and reading.

As we continue to ensure we are aligned on the very best practices for teaching and learning, we have leaned into and learned from various media. One of the most important podcasts available right now on the science of reading is Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong. There’s an idea about how children learn to read that’s held sway in schools for more than a generation—even though it was proven wrong by cognitive scientists decades ago. Teaching methods based on this idea can make it harder for children to learn how to read. In this podcast, host and education reporter Emily Hanford investigates the influential authors who promote this idea and the company that sells their work. It’s an exposé showing how educators came to believe in something that isn’t true and are now reckoning with the consequences— children harmed, money wasted, and an education system upended.

Here’s a quote from episode 1 of the podcast:

Paul: They weren’t reading. They were doing what the teachers told them. And they were just guessing. I mean, there’s no two ways about it. They were guessing, and I just thought like—OK, well eventually they guess their way into being able to read. I’m assuming. I was wrong. 

Listen to more here.

Did you catch our Model UN students on the evening news?

CBS2 reporter Sabrina Franza visited KIPP Academy Chicago to watch the students in action and to learn more about the team’s upcoming trip to the Model UN National Conference in New York! Watch the clip here. Our students are planning to compete at the conference in April 2023 in the Big Apple! You can help the team get to the conference by donating.

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