|Direct Instruction Methodology
Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy uses a method of teaching in grades K-6 called Direct Instruction. Direct Instruction has consistently outperformed other approaches in producing fluent readers by the end of third grade. Engelmann has authored over 50 Direct Instruction programs, including the Reading Mastery series utilized at CMCA.
Basic Assumptions of Direct Instruction (DI):
- All children can be taught, regardless of past history.
- All teachers can succeed when given effective training and materials.
Direct Instruction’s effectiveness with all students and teachers is due to its unique design and delivery.
Direct Instruction applies purposeful instructional planning to give students extensive support as they practice and apply newly learned concepts and skills. Direct Instruction programs:
- Break concepts into manageable steps to help students possess appropriate pre-skills and prior knowledge
- Use clear, concise language so students grasp concepts the first time they are presented
- Model skills and steps needed to complete tasks and ensure understanding
- Give guided practice to support student learning
- Provide multiple examples in a carefully planned sequence to build independence
- Integrate previously learned knowledge and skills for continual progress
- Incorporate continuous assessment to monitor student learning
Presentation has a lot to do with how effectively students learn. In Direct Instruction programs, teachers:
- Give placement tests so students begin at an appropriate level
- Follow scripted lessons to ensure consistency
- Use quick pacing and group responses to keep all students engaged
- Implement planned correction procedures to prevent errors from becoming learned habits
- Provide positive reinforcement to motivate students
- Are able to be immediately responsive to students’ needs because the presentation techniques allow lessons to flow smoothly.
Core Knowledge Curriculum
Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy is proud to be a "core knowledge" institution.
The E. D. Hirsch Core Knowledge® Series will provide the scope and sequence in the basic disciplines. The Core Knowledge approach to American history is inclusive, teaching that while Americans have many different national and racial origins, we have a common culture and common values which bind us as a nation. It affirms the characteristics of American government and society that are admirable while not ignoring the darker aspects of American history. The Core Knowledge Curriculum will be complemented by Direct Instruction Reading, Math and Spelling.
For more information on Core Knowledge, visit the Core Knowledge Web site.
Reading Mastery is the Direct Instruction program that teaches the skills of reading from grades K through 6. Reading Mastery has kindergartners reading connected text very rapidly, thus accelerating achievement and a sense of accomplishment. By third-grade level, students are expected to be fluent oral readers and the emphasis turns to comprehension. Third and fourth-grade level texts use expository material in content areas such as science and geography, while fifth and sixth-grade level texts concentrate on literature. Students are taught reading in small groups at their appropriate skill level. These groups are fluid and students are moved from group to group as their mastery of material occurs.
Spelling Mastery is the Direct Instruction program used to teach spelling at CMCA. Spelling Mastery employs three strategies: phonemic, morphemic, and whole-word approach. The phonemic approach helps younger students use sound-symbol correspondence to generalize the spelling of many words and word parts that follow regular phonetic patterns. The morphemic strategy teaches older students the spelling of meaningful portions of words, including prefixes, suffixes, and word roots. The whole-word approach helps students at all levels to master the spelling of common words that are phonetically irregular. Students are taught spelling in small break-out groups according to their mastery of material.
Connecting Math Concepts
Connecting Math Concepts is a highly systematic, carefully articulated math program presented through the scripts and interactive teaching methods that are hallmarks of Direct Instruction. The instruction in Connecting Math Concepts is organized into approximately four to six different tracks for the students to learn. New information is introduced in small steps so that the students can proceed at a reasonable rate of speed without becoming overwhelmed. The program also provides continuous review so that the student will not only learn the material, but integrate it into other areas. Once one track of information is learned, it is combined with other tracks so that mathematical connections can be made. Students do a lot of choral responding as well as book work in class.
Students at CMCA learn cursive beginning in kindergarten. As a component of a classical education, cursive at an early age was a matter of course in the United States and in Europe prior to 1930. The curved lines of cursive are much more natural for children to form than the straight lines of printing. By teaching cursive beginning in kindergarten, children in third grade do not have to learn a new form of writing at precisely the moment in schooling when the writing demands upon students are greatly increased. The mainstream method of trading printing for cursive in third grade places a heavy burden on the student who is expected to use a new written medium to express himself at a substantially higher intellectual level. Equipping our students to write easy and legible cursive is a critical component in liberating their academic potential.
The founders of CMCA were aware of an anomalous practice in mainstream public schools: students were encouraged to write poetry without ever having read poems. This was consistent with the emphasis on “creativity” that has become a dominant value of mainstream education. The founders concluded that the mainstream had things backwards. It is the school’s job to provide students with a deposit of good poetry that will help to form the taste and provide the template for what a good original poem might look like. Familiarity with great poetry can also be an important aid in developing good writing style generally. Aside from its specific virtues, memorizing poetry is an excellent way to develop memory. Memory is fundamental to intellectual development in general. A good stock of poetry loaded into longer memory provides wonderful emotional and intellectual nourishment.
Specials: Art, Music, and P.E. In developing the whole person, CMCA values art, music, and physical education. Students are given one-half year of art instruction and one-half year of music instruction each year. P.E. is taught all year, two days each week.
CHAMPs Behavior Management Model
Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy uses the CHAMPs model to assist classroom teachers in designing or fine tuning a proactive and positive classroom management plan that overtly teaches students how to behave responsibly. CHAMPs strategies are implemented to accomplish the following:
By applying the effective, research-based practices outlined in CHAMPs, CMCA teachers have developed methods for clearly communicating their expectations on every classroom activity and transition. These expectations are clarified using the following acrostic:
- Reduce classroom disruptions and office referrals
- Improve classroom climate
- Increase student on-task behavior
- Establish respectful and civil interactions
Key components of CHAMPs:
- Conversation (What level of conversation is allowed/expected during the activity?)
- Help (How do students get the teacher's attention and their questions answered?)
- Activity (What is the task/objective? What is the end product?)
- Movement (Can students move about during this activity?)
- Participation (How do students show they are fully participating? What does work behavior look/sound like?)
- Teachers proactively establish clear expectations with logical and fair responses to misbehavior
- Teachers spend less time disciplining and more time teaching
- Teachers learn tools to motivate students to do their best
- Students are taught how to behave responsibly