Silvermine Programs 

Academically Talented

The Norwalk Academically Talented (A.T.) program emphasizes a differentiated Humanities curriculum for students who demonstrate academic talent. At the elementary school level, this is for students in grades 3-5. The goals of the A.T. program are: to create a learning atmosphere that will enable the academically talented child to develop critical thinking, creative thinking and communication skills; and to involve the academically talented student in challenging, learning experiences that give them the opportunity to engage in intellectual stimulation from contact with other highly motivated students.

The process of identifying students for the A.T. program begins in 2nd grade with all Norwalk second graders being screened. Two tests are administered in the spring. A committee of teachers and administrators review the results in the fall to determine eligible students. Students in grades three, four and five, may also be recommended for the program by classroom teachers. Parents may also nominate a child for the A.T. program in the fall. Students meet for two hours and are on a six-day rotating schedule. Please visit the A.T. website for a more detailed explanation of this process:

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Silvermine's art program is consistent with, and meets the requirements of the K-5 curriculum of the Norwalk Public Schools. The students meet once every six days for one hour with a certified art specialist. Students in grades K, 1 and 2 meet for two, thirty minute sessions during a six day rotation, while students in grades 3, 4 and 5 meet for sixty minutes one time during the six day rotation.

Artwork is displayed throughout the year, and during an annual school wide exhibit in the spring. In addition several works are chosen for the All-City Show every spring where the work of Silvermine students is regularly chosen for the City Housing Authority calendar.

In addition to the regular art program, Silvermine offers the Artistically Talented Program which is designed to meet the needs of students who show an above average level of artist ability. Pupils are selected based on their creative thinking, art ability and teacher referral. This program is offered in grades 3, 4 and 5 and continues through grade 8. Students meet in small groups (typically 6-8 students) for 1 hour every 6 days.

Fifth grade students work with an artist from the Silvermine Art Guild to paint a mural on a designated wall in the school building. This becomes a legacy for the outgoing fifth grade group as they move on to the middle school.

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Core Instructional Program

Teachers follow the district’s curriculum for all subject areas.  The basis for all instruction is the state’s standards and framework.  Below is a brief description of the core program:

·   Language Arts/Reading – The district requires that schools implement a comprehensive literacy approach which includes read-alouds, shared reading, guided reading and independent reading.  For the 2009-2010 school year, all teachers will implement the Reader’s Workshop model of instruction.  Reader’s Workshop provides students with choice of reading materials based on their reading level.  Within that instruction students are also taught phonics skills to help them decode words.

·   Math – Voyages is the core program.  It is standards based.  The theme for units is consistent throughout the grade levels so that concepts are continually built upon from one grade level to the next.  There is a wide use of manipulatives, games and technology for instruction.  It is also aligned to the Connecticut Mastery Test.

·   Writing – In the year 2007-2008, the Writer’s Workshop model became the core writing program for writing instruction.  Writer’s Workshop includes seed journals and it exposes students to different genres of writing such as personal narratives, non-fiction expository, poetry and a variety of other genres of writing.  Students are engaged in writing daily.

·   Science – The K-5 science program is standards based. The students engage in hands on experiments to learn science concepts.  They are invited to submit projects for the school science fair.  Some projects are then submitted to the district level science fair.  The students also visit local sites such as the Roton Planetarium to support science lessons.  The students also learn about the change of the caterpillar to a butterfly in the school’s own butterfly garden in the center of the school.  The campus is fortunate to have running behind it the Silvermine River.  Teachers use the river as a resource for lessons.  Students in grades 3-5 take unit tests times a year electronically through a web based assessment program called Moodle.  Moodle allows teachers to receive and give students immediate feedback. Science skills for students in grade 5 are also assessed through the Connecticut Mastery Test.

·   Social Studies – The K-5 social studies program is also standards based.  Teachers use various resource materials to have students study historical and current events.  Some grade levels learn history through enrichment activities such as the play “The Burning of Norwalk” which has become a regular part of instruction for grade three.  Other grade levels use the Junior Achievement program to learn about the many aspects of a community.

To assess student progress in the area of reading for grades K through 2, in addition to teacher made tests, all students must take the Diagnostic Reading Assessment 2 (DRA2) exam.  In grades 3 through 5 the Connecticut Mastery Test, teacher made tests, the Rigby P.M. assessment and district benchmark tests are administered.  All of these exams are used to determine student reading skill levels as well as their ability to comprehend and interpret what they read.

To assess student progress in the area of writing, students are administered the Connecticut Mastery test in addition to class assignments and writing journal entries. 

To assess student progress in math, students are periodically evaluated using the Voyages unit tests.  In addition, the students are administered district benchmark tests and the Connecticut Mastery Test. 

To assess student progress in the area of science, students participate in science projects, the science fair, class experiments and district benchmark assessments.  In grade five, students also take the Connecticut Mastery Science test. 

To assess student progress in the area of social studies, along with class assignments and tests, students are administered the district’s social studies benchmark assessment.

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Data Teams

To consistently monitor student progress and to guide instruction, each grade level meets in instructional data teams every six days. Using data from pre and post assessments, and/or results from some of the tests mentioned above, the teachers meet to discuss how students are performing. At the meeting teachers determine how to move students forward who may not be progressing in a timely manner. They discuss intervention strategies, teaching strategies and timelines for moving students along. These discussions guide instruction. As part of the discussion teachers determine goals for the next meeting. This process began formally in January of 2008 and has contributed greatly to the gains in reading and math shown in the results of the 2007 – 2008 Connecticut Mastery Test. Administrators, the literacy specialist, the numeracy coach and one of the special education teachers regularly attend these meetings. In addition to the instructional data teams, a lead group, the school data team, meets with the administrators once a month to discuss the needs of the school in general as related to the instructional program. This group works collaboratively to develop the School Growth Plan, to determine professional development and to examine schoolwide assessment results for reading and mathematics. Each year, this group will be responsible for determining a plan of action for the school year as well as the instructional focus. These decisions will be based on careful analysis of all major assessments. Throughout the year, the group is responsible for monitoring and adjusting the school plan/focus as needed.

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Early Intervention Process

In order to provide support to a student in a timely and effective manner, the school implements the early intervention process or EIP. This process is a general education support. Its intent is to provide early support services to students who are struggling with the academic program.

The process is lead by a core group of teachers who have been specifically trained in this model of intervention. Each lead teacher works with a specific grade level. The lead teacher meets with his or her grade level at least two times a month to review the progress of the identified students and determine next steps.

The EIP is a three-tiered process. All students begin in tier one. Tier one strategies are those, which most teachers use to help students access the curriculum successfully. Some examples are: the use of graphic organizers, charts, guided reading, etc. Through data analysis, when a teacher determines that a student is not keeping pace with his or her peers, the teacher begins to dialogue with colleagues and the lead EIP teacher about the student and begins to identify a more intense level of intervention strategies. At this stage, which is tier two, some examples of strategies the teacher may use are: small group instruction, educational software and graphic organizers. This would be a tool that is used specifically for this student or perhaps a small group of students with similar needs. The teacher continues to monitor the student’s progress for a specified amount of time, usually six to eight weeks. At the end of the designated time, the teacher reviews the student’s progress and determines if the child is accessing the curriculum appropriately or if the child should be moved to tier three status for more intense interventions. Some examples of tier three strategies are: referral to the Literacy Specialist/after school tutoring program. In addition, the teacher develops an individualized student plan or ISP. Once a student is moved into tier three, another timeline is set. At the end of the timeline, the teacher again confers with colleagues and the lead EIP teacher to see if the child is progressing. If the student is making sufficient progress he/she may be supported with strategies that are less intensive, if the child is not making sufficient progress he/she may be referred to the special education department. At all stages of the EIP process the teacher is in communication with parents and school administrators. The parent is informed of the plan and given the opportunity to provide input. A parent and administrator signature is required for the ISP plan.

This early intervention support is provided not only by the general education teachers but also by the art, music and physical education teachers. The teachers use their special areas to reinforce concepts that the students struggle to master. This requires constant communication between the fine arts teachers and the classroom teachers.

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English Language Learners (ELL)

For students who are not native English speakers or who are exposed to another language in the home, an ELL teacher provides services to them on a regular basis. This teacher is specifically trained to instruct students who are learning a second language, in this case English. These students are immersed totally in English and do not participate in the school’s Mano a Mano program. They are pulled out of their regular classes for instruction. The bulk of their day is spent in the general education classroom. Their language proficiency skills are assessed using the Language Assessment Survey or LAS test. They receive language skills services until they test at a proficient level of English on the LAS test that is also supported by their Connecticut Mastery Test score.

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Instrumental Music - Strings

The Strings program at Silvermine is designed for students starting in grade 3 through 5 to have the opportunity to excel in playing a musical instrument. The instruments available for study are the Violin, Viola, Cello and Bass. Each student is responsible for renting the instrument and purchasing the Essential Elements 2000 book at one of the local music stores in this area. Upon acceptance into the program, each student will receive a thirty minutes lesson and participate in a thirty minutes Orchestra rehearsal once every six days for the entire school year. In order to ensure the quality and success of their experiences, students are expected to practice on a daily basis. Furthermore, during the last week of June and month of July, lessons are offered and encouraged for students who would like to continue studying over the summer.

Students involved in the Strings program here at Silvermine will also have wonderful opportunities to perform on stage for the school and their families during the winter and Spring Concerts. Also, the 5th Grade String students are given an extra opportunity to perform in the All City String Festival at City Hall in April. This Concert includes all String students in the City of Norwalk grades 5 through 12 and represents the musical talent of our students in Norwalk.

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The Silvermine School Library houses approximately 14,000 books. The books are fiction, non-fiction, biographies, reference books, videos, etc. Books are in Spanish and in English. Students visit the library once a week. There is an open library time at the end of the school day so that students have the opportunity to check out a book every day. The librarian reads to all classes and works with teachers to provide resource materials for themed lessons.

Other library activities are the following: • Second through fourth grade students participate in plays. The librarian helps the students prepare to put on the plays and provides the scripts. The students perform them during library time for other students. • Fourth and fifth grade classes learn library skills. • Fifth grade students are involved in Reading Is Fundamental (RIF). Three times per year the students are invited into the library to select a book of their choice from a special selection purchased through the media center fund. Students are then able to keep the books for their own personal collection. • Fourth and fifth grade students participate in the Nutmeg Collection voting. This is a state based event. There are ten chapter books that students are to vote on in terms of their interest. In January the students cast their votes for their favorite title. The voting results are submitted to the state. Based on the student voting, the most popular title from the collection wins the Nutmeg award. • The fifth grade students have a Library Olympics. The purpose is to teach students how to use reference books but is turned into a competition in order to motivate students. At the end of the Olympics, the top three students receive a Borders Cards. The contest is supported by the media center fund from the PTO. The contest includes an open book test using four reference books. The student that is able to answer the most questions correctly in the shortest amount of time is declared the winner. This competition at one time was a district wide event. The school librarian continued the tradition at Silvermine because of the benefits to the students.

Technology is integrated into the library through the Destiny Program. All book titles are on this software program that students and teachers are able to access from their classrooms and the library. This allows students and staff to know the entire catalogue of the library and to find details about any book. The Destiny Program also allows students to access Web Path Express which connects students to age appropriate websites on the subject of their choosing.

Each year the Library purchases approximately $4000 worth of new books. These books are purchased based on reviews, teacher and student recommendations and supplements to the curriculum as needed.

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Literary Specialist

The Literacy Specialist has the unique opportunity to get to know and work with all children in Grades K – 5. The Literacy Specialist has many duties within the school to support student achievement. These include:

  • Model special lessons in classrooms
  • Provide reading-related staff development to the school community
  • Work with small groups of students in their classrooms or in the literacy lab.
  • Help students with word work (phonics) and comprehension skills
  • Assist students during Writer’s Workshop
  • Introduce students to different genres for reading and writing
  • Help teachers assess needs of their students by testing for reading intervention
  • Create individual plans for identified students to enhance reading and writing skills
  • Work with teachers during Data Teams to develop “pre” and “post” tests, and to differentiate learning strategies for their students
  • Guide students to choose the correct level of books to read
  • Coordinate and work with students in after-school program
  • Assist in the development of IEPs and attend select reading-related IEP meetings
  • Coordinate parent workshops

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The music education program in the Norwalk Public Schools is recognized as one of the best in the State of Connecticut and is aligned with the State and National Music Standards. Children at the elementary level receive classroom music instruction twice in a period of six days. At Silvermine Elementary School, students in K-3 receive music instruction for thirty minutes two to three times per six-day cycle; students in grades four and five receive one hour of classroom music once every six days and an hour of chorus once every six days.

The music curriculum presents a sequential approach to instruction with the development of the whole child in mind. Students in K-5 actively engage in singing, game-playing, dancing, creativity and rhythmic expression. The students develop movement and an enjoyment of singing and playing instruments, inner hearing, improvisational skills, the ability to read and write music, an understanding of music vocabulary, an appreciation of music of the world (including the study of composers and a wide variety of musical genres and cultures). The music class also integrates the music curriculum with other disciplines and total school curricula. In addition, the fourth and fifth grade chorus studies the human voice, choral technique, part singing and becomes familiar with a wide range of choral repertoire.

All grade levels present musical and dramatic performances throughout the year and for special events. These include:

  • Performances for the Silvermine spirit rallies.
  • Second grade performance of their spring musical Cantamos Americanos.
  • Third grade presentation of the Native American Program in November.
  • Silvermine Flag Day Celebration.
  • The Silvermine fourth and fifth grade chorus performs a winter and spring concert during the school day and in the evening.
  • The fifth grade chorus performs for graduation.

Students across the grade levels also attend music field trips each year. These have included The Nutcracker, James and the Giant Peach, the Broadway musical Mary Poppins (NYC) and the musical Beauty and the Beast. Enrichment programs are presented at the school in music, art, dance, athletics, drama, literature, science and math.

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Parent Teacher Organization

At Silvermine, teachers and parents partner together to ensure that positive benefits of home-school communications are realized. The PTO plans several events throughout the year for families to share their partnership with the whole school community. Activities include book fairs, workshops, craft nights and other "fun" nights. These events are planned so that parents can support their children at home with academics and so that families can spend time together.

Acknowledging the need to reach out to parents whose primary language is other than English, the PTO has actively recruited several assistants to translate all publications. The PTO consistently searches for best practices that provide opportunities for parents to volunteer in order to have a presence at the school.

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The school psychologist is on site 2.5 days per week, Monday, Wednesday and half day on Friday mornings. The psychologist provides group counseling, individual counseling, testing for students who are recommended for special education services, consults with classroom teachers for behavior management strategies to support students who require additional support outside of the regular classroom rules and sits in on most Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meetings. The position is instrumental in providing support to the whole child.

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Social Worker

The school social worker is at the school every day. Support to the students is through group counseling and individual counseling. The social worker also makes recommendations to parents for outside referrals to agencies that specialize in working with children and their families. The social worker also consults with classroom teachers to provide them with assistance in creating management plans for students. The social worker also oversees a mentoring program with local businesses that provides students with an extra adult connection in their life. In addition, the social worker monitors student attendance and is the liaison with the district for truancy. The social worker works closely with the Planning and Placement Team (PPT) in the process for identifying students with special needs.

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Special Education

Some students are provided support through the special education department. Usually, the classroom teacher refers these students for special education, except in cases where the child’s needs have been medically diagnosed by a physician. In all cases, the student is given a battery of examinations to determine their cognitive level and academic level so that an individualized education plan or IEP can be developed to meet the child’s needs.

A student must have gone through the Early Intervention Process to be referred for special education. If a teacher determines that a child is not accessing the curriculum successfully after having gone through intense interventions, the teacher requests the appropriate forms for a referral to special education from the special education teacher who works with his or her grade level.

Once those forms have been submitted, the teacher confers with the special education team. The team consists of a special education teacher, an administrator, the school psychologist, the social worker and the speech and language pathologist. The teacher shares his or her evidence to support the referral. The teacher and team determine if in fact the student should be moved forward to the special education process or if the child should be provided with additional general education strategies. If it is determined that the student should be given additional general education strategies, a timeline is determined to reconvene and review the child’s progress at that time. If the team determines that the child should move forward with the special education referral, a Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meeting is set. This team includes all members of the special education team, the classroom teacher and the parents of the student. A formal invitation is issued to the parents to attend the PPT meeting. At the PPT meeting information is shared with the parent regarding testing and the process from this point forward. Parent approvals are secured for any testing that is to be administered by members of the team. A timeline is set to review results.

Once all testing has been done to determine eligibility and the students’ needs, the PPT reconvenes to hear the test results, and to determine how services will be provided to the student. The special education teacher who will be the case manager for the student develops the IEP. This document includes a draft of goals and objectives for the student, the amount of service the student will receive and by whom as well as the format for this service, the support may be given in the classroom or the student may be pulled out of the classroom to receive services. The IEP will also include any special accommodations the student will receive. The IEP is reviewed every year on its anniversary date or before. A full battery of tests is re-administered to the student every three years and a triennial review is conducted in order to have the most current information specific to the student’s progress and needs. At any time, a teacher or parent may reconvene the PPT if the need arises.

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The students are exposed to technology in grades K-5. At the lower grades students use a variety of software programs that reinforce skills and that introduce students to the use of computers. In the upper grades, teachers use websites to support instruction and as a research tool. Students are able to use them as word processors for reports. Students in grades five have a memory stick that is personalized for them with their work. They then take it with them to the middle school.

Technology is used for assessments and to prepare students to take the Connecticut Mastery Test. Assessment sites include components that allow teachers to monitor student use and to guide instruction.

In the 2008-2009 school year, the school had an updated computer lab, two smartboards and a portable laptop lab. Teachers check out the laptops as needed and visit the computer lab per the schedule that is established through the technology liaison for the school. Teachers communicate regularly with parents via e-mail.