Curriculum

Millennium Charter Academy implements the North Carolina Common Core and Essential Standards as well as the Core Knowledge lswritingcurriculum. The alignment of these two curricula provides a solid, coherent foundation of language arts, history, geography, mathematics, science, and the fine arts. It includes, for example, the basic principles of constitutional government; important events of world history; essential elements of mathematics and of oral and written expression; widely acknowledged masterpieces of art and music; and timeless literature, stories, and poems passed down from generation to generation.

MCA uses the Four Blocks Literacy Model to guide the instruction of reading and writing. This approach incorporates the strengths of phonics, literature-based instruction, basal instruction, and writing. When combined, these ideologies address the acquisition of sound-symbol relations, the gradual progress of reading difficulty, a wide variety of genres, the richness of good literature, and writing, which allows children to learn reading “from the inside out.”

Through Everyday Math, developed at the University of Chicago, MCA teaches basic fact knowledge and number sense, computation and accuracy, as well as concept and skill development from arithmetic to algebra. In addition to a focus on both mathematical processes and precise answers, we balance discovery learning with teacher-directed instruction. The faculty works diligently to increase students’ mental dexterity, discouraging an over-dependence on calculators. We are committed to fostering mathematical literacy! Parents of middle schoolers can opt for different avenues of math instruction.

In the middle school, all core courses are taught at honors level, and elective courses, numbering more than forty, are equally rigorous. Middle school students study both contemporary and classic selections in literature and examine primary sources in history. Science classes feature an inquiry-based model of instruction, and mathematics classes are accelerated on the basis on individual student need. Writing from sources occurs across the curriculum. In all classes, students engage in meaningful, content-based discussions.

For more information on specific areas of the curriculum, click on topics below.

joeREADING INSTRUCTION
The first goal is to provide beginning readers with instruction that is consistent with the four major approaches to learning to read mentioned above. The second goal is to provide multilevel instruction without placing the students in leveled reading groups. The literacy framework is commonly known as Building Blocks for kindergarten, Four Blocks for 1st through 3rd grades, and Big Blocks for the upper grades The four daily teaching blocks are: 1) guided reading, 2) self-selected reading, 3) writing, and 4) working with words. Each of these four blocks is taught every day. The guided reading block focuses on reading comprehension skills, with a goal of creating independent readers. The self-selected reading block allows time for the teacher to read aloud, followed by independent student reading with subsequent discussion. The writing block allocates time for the students to practice penmanship, learn about the writing process, grammar, and the mechanics of good writing. Working with words encourages students to explore words, word families, spelling, and phonics. During this segment students also use what they learned about words in their reading and writing.

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WRITING INSTRUCTION
OVERVIEW
Millennium Charter Academy places a high value on the whole of writing. In order to fulfill the school’s mandates to prepare future leaders and teach higher level thinking skills in an academically robust curriculum, we desire that all our students recognize quality writing, become adept writers, develop a love of writing, and form an acute ability to critically read that which is already written.

To this end, the lower grades prepare students by helping them to amass a great quantity of information about various subject matters and to develop the conventions and techniques necessary to create both narrative and expository compositions. The upper grades continue building the students understanding of written language and teach them to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate their own written expression and that of others. Furthermore, they are introduced to Latin to help them understand the structure of languages in general.

Our teachers engage students through the writing process, which involves five flexible stages: pre-writing, rough draft, editing, revising, and publishing. MCA supports this approach by intertwining four primary sources to form its methodology for writing instruction. They are the Four Blocks literacy model, D’Nealian Handwriting, Write from the Beginning, and the 6+1 Trait model.

FOUR BLOCKS LITERACY MODEL
Through the Four Blocks Literacy model, of which about twenty-five percent is dedicated to writing, our students have an opportunity to practice penmanship, to learn about the writing process, grammar, and the mechanics of good writing. Some days the students work in groups, other days on their own, and at other times individually with the teacher. Through brainstorming, editing and publishing young authors create approximately six to twelve polished pieces of writing each year. “Young-author’s-chair” and “make words” are commontechniques used to build writing skills.

D’NEALIAN HANDWRITING
Millennium introduces D’Nealian handwriting to our youngest students. Our second grade teachers begin cursive about the midpoint in the school year. By fourth grade, students should be doing most of their writing in cursive. Teachers report that because D’Nealian is so easy for students to learn, teaching time is cut in half. First of all, there are only three letter heights to remember. Next, all D’Nealian manuscript letters — except f, i, j, t, and x — are formed with a single continuous stroke. That means few pencil lifts, so students easily establish a smooth, rhythmic flow to their writing. The more times a beginning writer has to lift a pencil, the harder it becomes to make a legible letter. When a child begins to write, the letters b and d or g and p are commonly reversed. The D’Nealian manuscript alphabet cuts down on common reversals, too. With D’Nealian manuscript, letter formation is true preparation for cursive. Letters are slanted from the start, and the letter size of the manuscript is exactly the same as the cursive. Furthermore, 87% of lower case letters are the same as their cursive version. Students need only to learn are a few simple connecting strokes. Children easily move into cursive writing when ready.

WRITE FROM THE BEGINNING
From the Write from the Beginning program, teachers use focused mini-lessons to explain specific skills to children in grades kindergarten – five. Throughout all grade levels, MCA also employs “Thinking Maps,” a closely related tool that provides a visual, organizational strategy and common vocabulary for all grades. These are graphic organizers developed from research.

6+1 TRAIT WRITING MODEL (modified)
The 6+1 Trait Writing model captures the qualities of good writing, provides common vocabulary for instruction, sets requisites, and allows students to become self-evaluators. MCA has modified 6+1 by increasing the expectations at each grade level, presenting at an appropriate level the qualities of good writing. This seven-part framework, consisting of ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and presentation, also provides precise, easily comprehended feedback on students’ work, a great benefit to teachers, students, and parents alike. Because 6+1 does not dictate the writing curriculum, it allows MCA’s professionals to wield it skillfully, prioritizing, focusing, and individualizing our writing instruction. It complements the Four Blocks Literacy model in many of the techniques and strategies, such as writing/reading workshops. Additionally, students are shown how to analyze the
traits that published authors employ.

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CORE KNOWLEDGE
Core Knowledge is a well-articulated curriculum that builds a rich foundation of basic knowledge upon which to add. It helps ensure that students understand fundamentals within all areas of their education rather than simply assuming that those basic fundamentals are common knowledge.

Many people say that knowledge is changing so fast that what students learn today will soon be outdated. While it is true that current events and technology are constantly changing, this is a well-established body of lasting knowledge, forming the core of MCA’s curriculum.

The Core Knowledge Sequence is a detailed outline of specific content to be taught in language arts, history, geography, mathematics, science, and the fine arts. As the core of a school’s curriculum, it can provide a solid, coherent foundation of learning, while allowing flexibility to meet local needs.

In 2003, MCA became an Official Core Knowledge School. As of 2004, the Core Knowledge Foundation recognized MCA as a national visitation for the instruction of Core Knowledge. Learn more about Core Knowledge at MCA.

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SPELLING
Spelling involves more than memorization and more than simply matching sounds with letters. It is an intellectual process that includes phonology (the sound system), orthography (the spelling system), morphology (the structures of forms of words), and etymology (the history and origin of words). MCA, therefore, presents a comprehensive study. Rather than teaching numerous lists of spelling words, which are typically stored in students’ short-term memory, then forgotten after the test, the faculty engages students in an understanding of the rules, patterns, structure, and history of words, so that students are able to generalize, spelling accurately words not specifically studied. We deliver a balance combining skills learned incidentally while students are engaged in authentic reading and writing and skills learned through direct instruction. We, furthermore, divide spelling into six fluid stages, beginning with the Emergent Stage, followed by the Letter/Name or Semi-Phonetic Stage, the Word Pattern or Phonetic Stage, the Word Study or Transitional Stage, and lastly the Conventional Stage. We understand a student’s successful progression through these stages to be somewhat variable, that is, not perfectly linear, but always with an overall forward movement.

VOCABULARY
Words– not just any word, but the precise word for the moment– are indispensable in the life of a well-educated individual. This is especially true for those persons in a classical education, where language is recognized as the common substance among all subjects and the chief tool given to humankind to shape the world. From kindergarten on, excellent teachers teach the meaning and value of words, didactically and by example, inspiring students to augment their repertoire and master the nuances, acknowledging that the richer the vocabulary, the deeper the students’ interaction with both the spoken and printed word.

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TEST PREP
Although MCA believes that through substantive content and appropriate methodologies, students will not only become well educated, but also score well on standardized tests, The Competitive Edge and Blast Off help prepare students to take the State required End of Grade (EOG) and End of Course tests.

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FINE ARTS
MCA firmly believes that art is a valuable part of the educational process. The Academy introduces students in kindergarten to great works of music and art. This is continued through the Middle School. Students also have the opportunity to learn applied visual art. Through excellent instruction, students are taught vocabulary, various genres, artistic styles, history, and artists. They learn and experiment with various techniques and mediums, from fabric to pastels to black and white photography. And all of this is integrated into the curriculum