Joyce Kilmer School is a unique school where all students come together for the first time in their educational career within the Mahwah Township Public School District. Students from the three primary schools (K-3) enter Joyce Kilmer School in their fourth grade year and share classrooms, activities, and a wide array of opportunities from which they learn and grow.
This year there are nine fourth grade classes and ten fifth grade classes, with a total enrollment of approximately 440 students. Teachers in fifth-grade work in dyad partnerships and teachers in the fourth-grade work in triad partnerships.
A positive school climate sets the stage for student achievement. Joyce Kilmer School embraces a philosophy that endorses the teaching of a social curriculum as an integral part of the school day. As a Responsive Classroom school, we use certain strategies to build school and classroom communities that create an environment for both academic productivity and joy in learning.
In addition to receiving a well rounded education, our fourth and fifth graders encounter many exciting new opportunities throughout the school year. Our highly dedicated and professional staff utilizes a variety of instructional techniques to meet the needs of all learners. Joyce Kilmer teachers use the Reading and Writing Workshop model to teach reading and language arts. The Reading and Writing curriculum is aligned with the Common Core State Standards. In reading, this program emphasizes the interaction between readers and text. Students learn to ask questions, make connections with prior knowledge and previously read texts, and ask questions to clarify faulty comprehension they recognize has occurred. The Reading Workshop provides children a time to read literature that is “just right” for them, while being mentored by a teacher who infuses explicit instruction of skills and strategies to increase student proficiency. The model allows students to acquire concepts by the use of: mini-lessons that are strategy driven, student reading/writing conferring time, small group work, mid-workshop teaching points, and teaching shares.
During Writing Workshop, students are exposed to units of study that offer instruction in areas such as narrative, argument (persuasive), informational, research, and poetic writing. This program focuses on developing each students understanding of the writing process, use of writing, and what makes great writers. The workshop method creates writers who are focused, detailed, structured, clear, and insightful while “increasing control of conventions through rehearsing, planning, studying exemplar texts, drafting, rereading, revising , reimagining and editing” (Calkins, L., 2011). It is our hope that through the use of this model, we not only develop skilled readers and writers, but students who are passionate about reading and writing.
In mathematics, the Everyday Math program promotes problem solving and critical thinking strategies and helps children relate mathematical concepts and skills to the world around them. The teachers have worked together creating common assessments in order to gather data on student achievement. With this information, the teachers create learning opportunities that not only provide remedial support, but challenge the students who are on or above grade level.
An interdisciplinary and hands-on approach is used for the teaching of science and social studies. In addition to the basic academic content areas, we provide instruction in art, music, physical education, technology, foreign language, and library skills. All instruction areas look to infuse opportunities for the students to strengthen their literacy skills by way of creating unique writing opportunities connecting content across the curriculum.
This year our school was focused on the learning of strategies and skills to improve student achievement on the PARCC and the NJ ASK standardized tests. Teachers collaborated with their grade/content level partners in order to create common assessments and analyze the results. With this data they, curtailed their instruction in order to meet the diverse needs of the students in their classroom.
Technology is infused throughout our instructional program; each of our classrooms has a Promethean Board which the teachers integrate into daily instruction. These interactive whiteboards promote active student engagement and are another means for students to be exposed to and learn 21st Century Skills. Each classroom has four computers for student and faculty use. Our state of the art media center is outfitted with twenty-nine computers and a projector; additionally we have 3 computer labs comprised of twenty-eight computers and Promethean Boards. Furthermore, we are most fortunate to have three mobile carts each housing twenty-eight lap top computers, which students and teachers may use in the classrooms; all have wireless Internet access.
For students with special needs, we offer collaborative In-Class Resource room settings, Pullout Replacement Resource room settings, and one Self-Contained class. Most of our special education teachers have been trained in the Orton Gillingham methodology. It is our philosophy to put the students with special needs in the least restrictive environment, presenting attainable challenges, while supporting them along the way.
All of our students have the opportunity to take both strings and instrumental music lessons, during the course of the school day. Joyce Kilmer offers Beginning Band for our fourth grade students, Concert Band for our fifth grade students, and Orchestra for our fourth and fifth grade strings students. Some of our more advanced musicians take lessons with students at Ramapo Ridge Middle School. Chorus is also offered on a voluntary basis for students in both grades. We are extremely proud of our instrumental, strings, and vocal music programs.
Project Challenge, a program for the academically Gifted and Talented, Advanced Math, and a Gifted Art program, are available to those students who meet the criteria. Art Club is another opportunity for aspiring artists to work with our art teacher on a weekly basis. We also offer a variety of enrichment and co-curricular activities throughout the year, including Math Magic, fifth grade intramurals, and Creative Problem Solving.
Our entire school community works together to provide the very best educational experience in a caring and nurturing environment that strives to meet the needs of each and every student. It is my hope that we can continue to work together in order to make Joyce Kilmer a place where we can be proud to call our home.