Engaging students with relevant and integrated learning experiences
Rockford Public Schools is the third-largest school district in Illinois, educating more than 28,500 students.
Last year, Cory Nilsen and David Allen, the respective deans of social studies and science curricula for Rockford PS, learned that a local organization that had provided dictionaries to every third-grade student was disbanding, and it wanted to give Rockford PS the remaining money.
Armed with additional funding from a grant that hadn’t been fully used, Nilsen and Allen engaged with Follett’s Curriculum Alignment solution team to find nonfiction and fiction titles in both English and Spanish that would support the district’s integrated learning model.
“We reached out to Follett to see if they could find books that were aligned to our outcomes,” Nilsen says.
Follett’s Curriculum Alignment solution creates a list of titles tailored to any district’s curriculum needs and budget. The trade books align to the standards, level and scope of curricula, plus they engage students with relevant and interactive learning experiences. Nonfiction and fiction books are selected by Follett’s Curriculum Alignment team, which is composed of educators with graduate degrees and certified librarians.
“Follett was able to look at the essential learning outcomes and tailor the resources to them,” Nilsen says. “We were able to get a good curricula match from those resources.”
One of the biggest challenges, Nilsen says, is finding good content about local history that is engaging to third-grade students, who have reached the stage of “reading to learn” versus “learning to read.”
“What Follett was able to do was provide us books about cities similar to Rockford in terms of size and history as a community,” Nilsen says. “Then we had our teachers work toward making the connections between the reading and our local history. That was a very good solution for us.”
Nilsen says Follett has been helpful in selecting titles and creating lists of resources, but it has also changed course when the district has asked for something different than the initially chosen title.
“One of the reasons we like working with Follett is that they make changes quickly and successfully,” Nilsen says. “It’s nice having the flexibility and customization that Follett offers us.”
Allen says the bottom-line benefit is developing students’ literacy and critical thinking skills.
“We look at our integration project, and what we’re trying to do is provide students with authentic experiences and engaging content,” Allen says. “We believe that if we provide literacy skills, ultimately content areas like sciences and social studies will benefit with students becoming better readers and critical thinkers.”
For more information, visit www.follettlearning.com