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Curriculum Handbook

A GUIDE TO CURRICULUM, INSTRUCTION, AND ASSESSMENT AT i3 ACADEMY

i3 Academic Model

I3 Academy is a public charter school founded in the Woodlawn area of Birmingham, Alabama opening in Fall of 2020. I3 will serve 420 learners in grades K-5 in its opening year. I3 Academy is modeled on the highly successful Charles Drew Charter School in the East Lake neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia. The holistic model for I3 Academy includes the following components: 
 
 
The core of the I3 Academy program begins with early language development and a strong literacy and math foundation. The following section describes the classroom literacy and math program at I3 Academy and the process by which these curriculum resources were selected.  
 

The i3 Academy Mission

Curriculum materials should align with the mission of I3 Academy: To empower learners to be agents of change for the problems they see in their world

Problem-solving is a critical skill for the 21st century, and I3 instructional practices should prepare students toward this end. Ultimately I3 students will be self-directed problem solvers who are highly equipped to solve local and global problems in a variety of ways.

i3 Academy Curriculum Selection

Curricular resources at I3 Academy are selected by teams of educators representing diverse backgrounds in experience, specialty areas, and grade levels taught. Educators are provided with a quality rubric to determine how well the curriculum fits with the mission and vision of I3 Academy. I3 Academy seeks the highest quality resources and well-researched curricula to equip teachers to reach every child where they are.  

Literacy at i3 Academy

Literacy at I3 Academy supports a child’s acquisition of language at every level. From early stage reading to literary analysis, our curriculum supports children at all levels to succeed and be appropriately challenged and supported in the classroom.

Collaborative Literacy

The I3 Academy literacy curriculum is Collaborative Literacy, a resource from the Center for the Collaborative Classroom. There are three components to Collaborative Literacy. Collaborative Literacy is a comprehensive system of literacy instruction that fosters love of literacy, and allows learners to become lifelong readers and writers. At I3 Academy we utilize the whole Collaborative Literacy suite in order for each resource to be most effective. 


The following are the components of Collaborative Literacy:

Being a Reader:

Being a Reader is a research-based early reading curriculum for grades K-2 designed to both teach foundational skills and foster engagement with and love of reading. Being a Reader systematically develops both early reading competencies and comprehension through whole-class, small-group, and independent work lessons.

Being a Reader utilizes the following structures: 


  • Differentiated Small-Group Instruction – Giving every teacher the ability to differentiate Tier 1 instruction so students receive the support they need to develop as readers at their own pace.
  • Whole-Class Instruction – Learning together with fully articulated instruction in shared reading, handwriting, letter names, independent work, and word study, depending on grade.
  • Independent Work Rotations – Designed to provide opportunities for students to practice what they are learning in whole-class and small-group lessons.Independent work also provides students with choice and fosters self-efficacy.
  • Authentic Reading Experience – Lessons are based around high-quality children’s literature, and students have opportunities to apply their learning to texts at their appropriate reading level.
  • Intentional alignment with SIPPS (Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Words) intervention – Being a Reader and SIPPS were designed to work together seamlessly in a powerful multi-tiered approach for readers moving between Tiers 1 and 2 in the RTI/MTSS framework (Response to Intervention-Multi-Tiered System of Support).
  • Systematic Decoding Instruction – Explicit and systematic lessons develop phonological awareness, spelling-sound relationships, decoding, and sight word knowledge that  build the foundation for accuracy and automaticity that lead to fluent reading and comprehension.
  • Integrated Social and Academic Development – Research shows that developing social competencies prepares students to be productive contributors to learning experiences and increases their capacity to learn.
  • Meaningful Assessments – Being a Reader offers a comprehensive set of formative and summative assessments that are designed to help teachers make informed decisions about instruction and track student progress throughout the year.

Being a Writer:

Being a Writer provides a full year of research-based whole-class writing instruction for grades K–6. Using a workshop model, the Being a Writer program teaches the writing process while developing intrinsic motivation for the craft of writing through immersion in the narrative, informational, and opinion/argumentative writing genres. Instruction encourages students to write regularly with passion and intent as it builds an understanding of and appreciation for the skills and conventions of writing.

Creating classroom experiences that develop a love of writing and allow children to express their thinking requires thoughtful, intentional instruction. Being a Writer provides this instruction by interweaving academic and social skill development. Teachers facilitate student discussion, provide a model for the respectful exchange of ideas, and help students develop their own voices. With Being a Writer, students learn to love writing and grow through the grades as writers, thinkers, and principled people, and teachers hone their skills, both as teachers of writing and as writers themselves.

Being a Writer utilizes the following: 

  • Read-Alouds: Read-alouds of exemplary writing stimulate the students’ imaginations and fuel their motivation to write. The read-alouds also allow students to hear, read, and discuss good examples of each genre. Lessons include shared and modeled writing and opportunities for students to share their writing with their peers.

  • Independent Practice and Conferring: Every Being a Writer lesson includes Writing Time and conferring. Writing Time is a period of sustained writing when students work independently on authentic writing tasks for various purposes and audiences. In Being a Writer, students have a great deal of choice about what to write—even when writing about assigned topics, they draw on their unique experiences and interests to address those topics.

  • Language Skills and Conventions-Students’ motivation to learn the conventions of written English grows out of their desire to communicate clearly with their readers in their published pieces. The Being a Writer program embeds instruction of skills and conventions into shared or modeled writing experiences after students have had ample time to draft their ideas. Mini-lessons covering standards-aligned skills are provided for grades 1–6 in the Skill Practice Teaching Guide, with practice activities in an accompanying Student Skill Practice Book.

  • Assessment- Being a Writer assessment tools are designed to help teachers make informed instructional decisions as they teach the lessons and track their students’ writing and social development over time. Being a Writer assessments help teachers

    • recognize individual students’ strengths as well as areas for improvement
    • prepare students for standards-based, end-of-year writing performance tasks 
    • evaluate students’ mastery of grade-level skills and conventions (grades 1–6) 

Making Meaning:

Making Meaning provides a full year of research-based, whole-class reading and vocabulary instruction for grades K–6. Reading lessons teach students comprehension and self-monitoring strategies that proficient readers use to make sense of text. Vocabulary lessons combine direct instruction in word meanings with engaging activities that teach high-­utility words found in the Making Meaning read-­aloud texts.


Reading is an interactive process that involves thinking, questioning, discussing, rereading, and responding to texts. In Making Meaning lessons, carefully selected nonfiction and fiction read-aloud texts provide a platform for rich discussions as students encounter increasingly complex texts and build their vocabularies. Lessons intentionally integrate academics with social skill development, creating an environment in which students learn to collaborate, agree and disagree respectfully, and take responsibility for their own learning.


Being a Reader utilizes the following: 

  • Read-Alouds: In Making Meaning lessons, comprehension strategies are taught directly through read-­aloud experiences. This ensures that students have equal opportunity to access the text regardless of their reading abilities. Then, through guided and independent strategy practice, students learn to use these strategies to make sense of their own reading. Lessons also include plenty of time for independent reading practice and individual conferences so that students of varying levels will be able to develop as readers at their own pace. In a world of sound bites expressed quickly in electronic formats, students benefit from having time to think about, hear, and share complete ideas.

  • Individualized Daily Reading and Conferring: At the heart of the Making Meaning lesson is Individualized Daily Reading (IDR) and conferring. IDR is a time when students self-select texts at their appropriate reading levels and read them independently. Students apply the skills learned during whole-class lessons, learn self-monitoring strategies they can use to check their comprehension, and discuss strategies they can apply when reading to “fix” comprehension problems.

  • Conferring: During IDR, the teacher confers with individual students about their reading. Conferring allows teachers to assess each student’s comprehension and provides an opportunity to support struggling students, encourage students to read more complex texts, and identify areas of growth for each student. 

  • Explicit Vocabulary Instruction: Vocabulary lessons combine direct instruction in word meanings with engaging, interactive activities that teach high-­utility words found in the Making Meaning read-­aloud texts. Lessons also focus on developmentally appropriate word-learning strategies that students can use to unlock word meanings when reading independently.

  • Assessment: Making Meaning assessment tools are designed to help teachers make informed instructional decisions as they teach the lessons and track their students’ reading and social development over time. Making Meaning assessments help teachers:

    • recognize individual students’ strengths as well as areas for improvement evaluate students’ reading comprehension,
    • independent reading progress, and vocabulary acquisition
    • prepare students for the reading comprehension portion of end-of-year standards-based reading assessments.
    •  

Center for the Collaborative Classroom, https://www.collaborativeclassroom.org/


Math at I3 Academy

Investigations 3

I3 Academy is adopting the most recent update of the Investigations math curriculum. Investigations has been widely used in the state of Alabama through the AMSTI (Alabama Math and Science Training Initiative) program.

Guiding Principles

  • Students have mathematical ideas. The curriculum supports all students in developing and expanding those ideas.
  • Teachers are engaged in ongoing learning about mathematics content, pedagogy, and student learning. The curriculum supports them in this learning.
  • Teachers collaborate with the students and curriculum materials to create the curriculum as enacted in the classroom. The curriculum provides a clear, focused, and coherent mathematical agenda and supports teachers in implementing in a way that accommodates the needs of their particular students.

Multiple forms of Mathematics Assessment

  • Daily opportunities for formative assessment (i.e. Observing the Students at Work). 
  • Checklists to track information about the Mathematical Practices and about Benchmarks that can best be assessed via observation (K-5)
  • Brief Quizzes every 8-10 sessions that familiarize students with a variety of test question formats (1-5); 
  • Embedded assessments that ask students to show and/or explain their work (1-5).
  • Assessment Teacher Notes accompany embedded assessments, and provide analysis of student work that meets, partially meets, or doesn’t yet meet the benchmark, as well as suggestions for what to do with students in the latter two categories

Support for Range of Learners

  • Most sessions have some combination of activity-specific intervention, extension, and/or ELL suggestions. 
  • An additional Intervention, Practice, and Extension activity is also included at the end of each Investigation (1-5)
  • Spanish Companion provides teacher dialogue in Spanish.

Social-Emotional Learning

Caring School Community is produced by the Center for Collaborative Classroom, and was adopted in conjunction with the Collaborative Literacy program. The social-emotional learning (SEL) program is research-based and aligned to standards set by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). 

Caring School Community utilizes the following structures to build community within classrooms, within the school, and between the school and the broader community:

Caring School Community

  • Daily morning and closing meetings: Students learn about one another and learn to work together in productive ways. 

  • Weekly random student pairings: Students learn to work and solve problems with many different kinds of people, deepening their awareness of and respect for diverse points of view. 

  • Weekly class meetings: Students address concerns and current issues. In the process, they learn to understand issues from each other’s perspectives, develop empathy for how others are feeling, and reach agreement as a class. 

  • Weekly Friday choice time: Students have a chance to work with others on their choice of engaging activities. 

  • Frequent use of cooperative structures: With ‘Turn to your partner’ and ‘Heads Together’ students have the time, opportunity, and structure to explore meaningful and engaging ways to work with others. 

  • Regularly creating and supporting intra-class relationships: Students get to know older and younger buddies and people who work at the school. 

  • Weekly Home Connection activities: Students talk with family members about the social development focus of the week. 


Classroom management and discipline: Teachers and students develop proactive skills to support students in managing their own behavior before there is a problem.