- Bismarck Public Schools
BPS Teaching Practices
What Is AVID?
AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is a schoolwide college-readiness system present in six secondary schools and seven elementary schools within Bismarck Public Schools. The AVID College Readiness System is the only elementary through higher education instructional system (K–16), which allows for regional alignment that strengthens student potential for completion. AVID-trained educators teach students academic, organizational, metacognitive, and leadership skills to help them develop the habits and behaviors needed to succeed in rigorous curriculum. The AVID College Readiness System is a catalyst for developing a school culture that closes the achievement, expectation, and opportunity gaps many students face, and it prepares all students for success in a global society.
At the secondary level, AVID is both a rigorous and intensive college-prep class (called the AVID Elective) offered in grades 6-12 in Bismarck Public Schools and a schoolwide educational framework for best instructional practices aimed to ensure college and career readiness for all students.
The AVID Elective is the core of AVID Secondary. It targets students in the academic middle and above with the desire to go to college and the willingness to work hard. AVID Elective students may be the first in their families to attend college, and some come from groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education. AVID students are capable of completing rigorous curriculum with the support of the AVID Elective class. The AVID Elective class places students on the college track, requiring students to enroll in the most rigorous courses that are appropriate for them, such as Honors and Advanced Placement®. To support them in the rigorous coursework, AVID students learn organizational and study skills, develop critical thinking, learn to ask probing questions, receive academic help from peers and college tutors, and participate in motivational activities to make their college dreams reality. AVID students also get direct instruction on college exploration, scholarships, financial aid, and other college test preparations. Enrollment in AVID requires an application, interview and contract. Applications are available in Student Services at each school.
AVID Frequently Asked Questions
What are the requirements for AVID?
Students in AVID are in the academic middle, have average to above average scores, and are motivated to succeed in school. AVID is not a motivational program; students have to want to improve to be in it.
Is AVID a class?
Yes. AVID is an elective class that fits in a student’s regular schedule. Although only one year is required, AVID students typically remain in the elective class throughout middle and high school.
Do students earn a grade in AVID?
Yes. Because AVID is a class in the student’s schedule, there is a grade.
What do you do in AVID?
- Learn the Focused Note Taking process and apply them to each of their classes.
- Learn test-taking strategies as well as time management and proper study skills.
- Explore college and career options while working with WICOR strategies (Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization, Reading).
- Maintain the AVID organizational system, which holds materials from all of their classes.
- Visit colleges across the state and possibly other states, from freshmen through senior year.
- Prepare for the SAT and ACT and begin filling out college applications.
- Apply for college and college scholarships
IS AVID a remedial program?
No. Students chosen for the AVID program have strong academic potential. It is only for students who have a desire to improve and have the intrinsic motivation to be successful.
Birth-Grade 12 Comprehensive Literacy Plan
The BPS/BECEP comprehensive literacy plan address the needs of children from birth through grade twelve in our community. This plan supports alignment of literacy instruction and experiences throughout each age span to ensure successful transitions between grades/programs/schools. The literacy plan includes all of the key components of effective literacy instruction and supports continuous improvement: clear standards; assessments to inform instruction; curriculum and interventions; professional development aligned with standards; as well as parent and community involvement.
The BPS/BECEP Comprehensive Literacy Plan was developed by the Local Literacy Team as a requirement of the Striving Readers Comprehensive Grant and will be evaluated by the literacy team and updated on a yearly basis.
Please review the BPS/BECEP Literacy Plan
BPS Elementary Literacy Overview
The Bismarck Public School District is committed to using a balanced approach to reading and writing, speaking and listening. Our teachers offer multiple opportunities for your child to work in whole group, small group, and independent settings. Literacy instruction is integrated withall content areas throughout the day. The ultimate goal of literacy instruction at all levels is to build a student's comprehension, writing skills and overall communication.
What can parents do to support literacy at home?
- Read aloud to your child daily
- Listen to your child read and talk with them about what they are reading
- Write and draw with your child, let them talk about their writing/drawing
- Write notes to your child and encourage them to write notes to you
- Visit libraries and bookstores
- Enhance your child’s vocabulary with stimulating conversation
- Establish a special place for books
- Show that reading and writing are important in your own life
Writer's Workshop K-5
In a Writer’s Workshop each student in the class is a working author. The teacher models writing for students, coaching and guiding authors as they explore their craft. Instead of spending the majority of class time on isolated sub-skills of writing, a Writer’s Workshop is designed to emphasize the act of writing itself—students spend most of their time putting ideas to paper, not just learning about it. Over time, students learn to choose their own topics and to manage their own development as they work through a wide variety of writing projects in a sustained and self-directed way. In Writer’s Workshop classrooms, full class lessons are short and tightly focused on practical real-world issues. Emphasis is placed on sharing work with the class, and on peer conferencing and revision.
Activities you might hear your kids talking about:
Reader’s Workshop (K-5)
Teachers model a reading metacognition strategy or comprehension skill to the whole group in a mini-lesson (15-20 min.). using a quality literature read aloud/text. A focus of the mini-lesson might also be on a phonics or word-solving strategy. The teacher will model what the strategy with authentic text, allowing the children to practice the strategy with partners (shared reading).
Guided Reading (K-5)
Guided reading is one aspect of classroom reading instruction. Teachers work with flexible small groups and carefully chosen texts in order to build decoding, fluency, comprehension skills and problem-solving strategies with instructional level text. Sometimes students may be grouped based on a similar strategy focus.
Literature Circles (3-5)
Small groups of students are given the opportunity to discuss literature. This focused discussion has structured guidelines that encourage self-reflection. Students are given choices of various trade books based on interest.
Independent Reading (K-5)
Student will spend part of the workshop time engaged in independent reading of good fit books based on topics/titles of interest to the individual student. Students will also be involved in inquiry and research to support learning in other content areas.
Phonics and Work Study (K-5)
Word study involves "doing" things with words - examining, manipulating, comparing and categorizing. BPS teachers provide explicit instruction in phonics along with hands-on opportunities to study words. Assessment and observation of each student's application of phonics skills and word knowledge in authentic reading and writing is used to plan effective instruction for each student.
BPS Elementary Math Overview
The Bismarck Public School District is committed to using an inquiry-based approach for mathematics instruction in which students actively explore mathematical ideas to develop conceptual understanding that leads to procedural fluency. During math instruction students collaborate, investigate, and take part in problem-based learning. They engage in whole class, small group, partner, and individual activities in which the teacher uses purposeful questions to assess and advance students’ reasoning and sense making about important mathematical ideas and relationships.
Our district goal in teaching mathematics is to help all students understand math concepts and use them powerfully. In order for students to develop deep understanding of mathematical concepts and procedures, they must come to see and believe that mathematics makes sense, that it is understandable, and that it is useful to them.
When this happens, students become more confident and flexible in their own use of mathematics. Teachers and students come to recognize that mathematical thinking is a part of everyone’s ability, and providing opportunities for all students to engage in thinking deeply about math is critical.
Teaching for conceptual understanding means helping students build connections and see relationships among ideas. Teachers provide experiences for students in which they actively engage in these key processes:
- making connections among concepts and procedural understanding
- creating representations and using models
- using reasoning to justify solutions
- communicating ideas and participating in meaningful math discussions
- using multiple strategies for problem solving
- experiencing opportunities for productive struggle when grappling with new math concepts
Review and practice and basic fact fluency remain important components of inquiry-based math instruction.
Opportunities to revisit concepts and build fluency are provided through mental math activities and number talks, math games, strategy-based instruction (using doubles facts to help with near doubles facts), and paper/pencil activities. Throughout all of these activities, deepening conceptual understanding and helping students make connections remains the goal.
Supporting Your Child with Math at Home
Because our students are experiencing math instruction that sometimes looks very different from our own experiences as learners, how we help with homework may also look differently. Rather than showing how to do a problem, a parent’s new role is to ask questions that help your child problem solve and make sense of the mathematics. Children may solve problems in many different ways. Ask your child to explain what she/he did and show why the solution makes sense.
When your child isn't sure how to begin a problem, ask:
- Can you tell me what you know now?
- What do you need to find out? Can you estimate the answer?
- How might you begin? What can you try first?
- Can you make a drawing or picture to get started?
While your child is working on a problem, ask:
- How can you organize your information? Will a list or table help?
- What would happen if …? Show me what you did that didn’t work.
- Can you explain the strategy you’re using to solve this? Why did you …?
- What could you do next? Do you see any patterns?
When your child finds an answer, ask;
- Does that answer make sense? How do you know?
- How did you get your answer? Do you think it is right?
- Convince me that your solution makes sense. Can you explain it in a different way?
Why A Flex Mod Schedule?
- Students engage in comprehensive offerings of rigorous <courses within a Flex Mod structure that both support students individually and build community.
- Educators collaborate in the Flex Mod environment, creating research-based programs to facilitate students’ academic and personal growth.
- Students and teachers collaborate one-on-one and in small groups during “Flex Time" built in to specifically to support the learner.
- Students are more involved in making decisions regarding their learning with the support and guidance of educators and parents, giving them opportunities to become better organized, motivated, and self-directed.
- Students have greater access to community resources because of the flexibility of the schedule and the variety of class structures.
- For more information on the BPS Flex Mod Scheduling, please visit the LearnBPS BlogSpot on Flex Mod Scheduling.
Daily Structure of Flex Mod Schedules
In a Flex Mod environment, students will experience a variety of learning structures.
- Large group: 50-200 students team-taught by a group of teachers; can be used for lecture, guest speakers and assessment. The primary purposes of large group are to gain student and teacher time and to use resources (human and material) that are not normally available for long periods of time. Also, it is here that teachers often present introductory ideas and pose questions which motivates students to prepare for small group discussion. Sometimes large groups are used for testing.
- Small group: more like a traditional class size (less than 30 students) taught by one teacher; can be used for direct instruction, Socratic seminar, inquiry/research, collaborative work and assessment. The purpose of the small group is to provide an opportunity for students to develop communication skills, analytical powers and judgment. Small group discussions are an important aspect of most courses.
- Flex Time: allows students to make choices about how to meet their own instructional needs by meeting with a teacher one-on-one or in a small group, researching in the learning commons, working collaboratively with a small group of classmates on a project, meeting with a school counselor, making up work, etc. At a time in our society when the age of majority is eighteen years of age, we must help students develop self-reliance. To enhance this development, we are committed to aid each student in learning how to effectively use his/her Flex Time.
Enrichment and Interventions in Flex Mod Schedules
- First line of defense for enrichment & intervention is the classroom instructor through “Call Back” time (teacher/student/parent communication)
- Second line of defense is mandatory Flex Time/ Personalized Learning Time assigned by administration
- Third line is consult with administration on other protocols for struggling students or enriched learning opportunities
Research Based Flex Mod Scheduling
Educational research shows us time and time again that “one size fits all” does not apply to teaching and learning. BPS researched this schedule and have seen it in action at Westside High School, Omaha, NE. This video link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YV4HWXVVJ08 provides basic background information regarding the flexible modular schedule at Merrill High School, Merrill, WI. The video explains the philosophy behind the schedule and the components of the model.
Flex Mod Scheduling ChallengesFlex/Mod offers unique opportunities for team teaching, interdisciplinary classes, and ongoing professional development that draw on the strengths of the staff. On the other hand, schools must deal with the following challenges:
Flex/Mod is not a perfect system, but BPS is committed to refining the process. Because with the right settings, with the right staff, combined with researched-based instructional practices, the benefits of Flex/Mod can be significant.
- PowerScheduler software cannot schedule Flex/Mod. At Legacy High School, a school of about currently 1100 students, a master timetable with almost 5,000 individual class phases must be created each school year.
- Unstructured independent learning time leads to unique student accountability and attendance challenges.
- There are conflicts with CTE Traditional Block Schedule with LHS Flex/Mod scheduling, so two different class phases may overlap a day or two each week.
- Because a higher degree of responsibility and ownership for learning are placed on the student in a Flex/Mod system, extra attention and focus need to be given to those students who take advantage of the system.
- Mods 9 to 16 are designated for lunch for students to use from their open mods, however there are some students that occasionally get only a 20 minute lunch on some days.
- Because Flex/Mod is so different from what most adults are familiar with, there is a continual need to educate parents, new teachers, board members, and the community about the value and philosophy behind it.
What is Project Based Learning?
Project based learning (PBL) offers a proven strategy to transfer skill competency in Creativity, Critical thinking, Collaboration, and Communication, the 4Cs that serve as the foundation for the 21st century learning framework.
PBL has many virtues:
- It tends to elicit more student engagement than teacher-directed methods, as it gives answers to the questions, “Why do I need to learn this?” and “Of what uses is this skill or information?”
- PBL demands that students acquire and practice metacognition skills.
- It is contextual, and research indicates that students retain content over memorization.
- It fosters collaboration and “people skills” that are required for group creativity.
- PBL allows diagnostic, formative and substantive assessments to be embedded into projects.
Source: Partnership for 21st Century Skills www.p21.org
Why do we use Project Based Learning in Bismarck Public Schools?
Our district mission is that ALL students are choice-ready for CAREER, COLLEGE and COMMUNITY.
Project Based Learning brings authenticity and purpose to a standards based learning environment. Students develop lifelong competencies to prepare for future workforce experiences.
As we look at global change, employers have voiced the importance of students needing to collaborate, innovate, problem solve and communicate. Through intentional project planning and classroom experiences, students should learn and apply success skills in a variety of situations.
Project Based Learning is a model of teaching that uses projects as a way to bring learning to life. PBL uses 8 essential design elements when planning a rigorous and relevant project. The 8 elements are:
- Understanding, & Success Skills
- Challenging Problem or Question
- Sustained Inquiry
- Student Voice and Choice
- Critique & Revision
- Public Product
Teachers use high impact standards to drive the design and plan for the project. Incorporating all Gold Standard elements within a project is what defines it as a PBL unit.
Source: Buck Institute http://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl
What is STEM? Why is STEM taught in Bismarck Public Schools?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
Students are immersed in science, technology, engineering, and math as these exist in everyday life – interwoven and integrated. STEM aims to increase awareness of the Engineering Design Process and science, technology, engineering, and math as a whole. Students are exposed to projects that increase technological literacy, cross-curricular learning, and global thinking. The projects in STEM focus on Big Ideas and often current events. The projects include hands-on and research projects. Students work in groups, pairs, or as individuals depending on the project.
STEM has proven to develop soft skills just as much as core concepts. Students are learning to be problem solvers, collaborate with each other, perform research, and follow the Engineering Design Process all while improving their core subject areas.
- PBS Design Squad:pbskids.org/designsquad
- Kiwicrate: kiwicrate.com
- Make magazine: makezine.com
- Steve Spangler: stevespangler.com
- Camp Wonderopolis: camp.wonderopolis.org
- EdHeads : edheads.org
- LegoMindstorms: lego.com/en-us/mindstorms
- Discovery Education: discoveryeducation.com
- NASA: nasa.gov/offices/education
- International Technology & Engineering Educators Association: iteea.org
- 21st Century Workforce Skills: p21.org
- TeachEngineering : teachengineering.org/
What are Success Skills?
BPS worked with community members and local school building communities to create our picture of a successful graduate. A graduate who is
career, college, and community ready. Bismarck students are provided opportunities to enhance their critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication skills through their K-12 educational experiences. These competencies are referred to as success skills by BPS but are also commonly termed “4Cs,” 21st Century Skills,” or “College and Career Readiness Skills. The first two resources below are used to guide classroom practice. The other resources point to online resources and materials provided by a variety of national organizations and groups.”
Success Skills Resources:
- BPS Student and Teacher Success Skills Behaviors
- BPS Success Skills Rubrics (only accessible to BPS Staff)
- Buck Institute for Education Project Design Elements
- 21st Century Workforce Skills