District 401's two elementary schools — John Mills Elementary and Elmwood Elementary — provide rigorous, standards-based instruction in a variety of academic subjects. We invite you to learn more about these content areas by visiting the sections below.
In the pages devoted to other subjects, we provide links to the Illinois Learning Standards applicable to those areas — or to the International Society for Technology in Education Standards in the case of our technology offerings.
Do you have general questions about curricular programming and content? If so, please contact Dr. Kimberly Ontiveros, the District's Director for Curriculum & Instruction.
Because District 401 is committed to offering an articulated curriculum that is consistent across grade levels and content areas, both elementary schools use the same ELA curricular programs.
In grades K-5, teachers and students use ReadyGEN as their ELA curriculum.
Because District 401 is committed to offering an articulated curriculum that is consistent across grade levels and content areas, both elementary schools use the same mathematics curricular programs.
In grades K-5, teachers and students use GO Math! as their math curriculum.
Because District 401 is committed to offering an articulated curriculum that is consistent across grade levels and content areas, both elementary schools use the same science curricular program.
In grades K-5, teachers and students use STEMscopes as their science curriculum.
Students continue using STEMscopes when they leave elementary school and study science in grades 6-8 at Elm Middle School.
A VIDEO OVERVIEW OF NGSS
The following video from the Illinois State Board of Education explains the NGSS standards:
MORE ABOUT STEMSCOPES
As noted above, our teachers use STEMscopes to build their lessons. STEMscopes is a comprehensive science curriculum based on the 5E model of pedagogy:
Our students learn science by doing and experiencing rather than passively observing. The relationship of science to technology, engineering and math — the subjects collectively known as STEM — becomes clear to students through evidence-driven investigations, engineering challenges, content connection videos, claim-evidence-reasoning assessments and more.
In compliance with federal testing requirements, Illinois administers a science assessment to students enrolled in public school districts in grades 5, 8 and once at the high school level. Our 5th graders take this exam, the Illinois Science Assessment, in the spring.
- Understand and manage emotions
- Set and achieve positive goals
- Feel and show empathy for others
- Establish and maintain positive relationships
- Make responsible decisions
For children, this process provides an environment that helps foster supportive relationships that make learning challenging, engaging and meaningful.
CORE COMPETENCIES AND OUR VISION FOR SEL
One of the nation's leaders in SEL research, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), has identified five core competencies that systematic SEL instruction seeks to develop in students:
- SELF-AWARENESS — the ability to know one's strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism and a "growth mindset."
- SELF-MANAGEMENT — the ability to effectively manage stress, control impulses and motivate oneself to set and achieve goals.
- SOCIAL AWARENESS — the ability to understand the perspectives of others and empathize with them, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
- RELATIONSHIP SKILLS — among other skills, the ability to communicate clearly, listen well, cooperate with others, resist inappropriate social pressure, negotiate conflict constructively, and seek and offer help when needed.
- RESPONSIBLE DECISION-MAKING — the ability to make constructive choices about behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety and social norms.
With these competencies in mind, District 401 has engaged in a multi-year initiative to build a continuum of SEL supports across all grades.
Our vision is to seamlessly integrate SEL into the academic environment by using a variety of research-based programs, along with staff development, to teach students the social and emotional skills they need to be successful learners.
CASEL's five core competencies serve as the foundation for our SEL instruction at each grade level, from early childhood to high school.
SOCIAL JUSTICE LEAGUE
In 2016, the District formed a committee called the Social Justice League (SJL) to support social emotional initiatives within our schools — including the use of restorative practices in response to passage of Senate Bill 100 — and to help create a long-term plan for implementing SEL instruction at all grade levels.
SJL comprises a cross-section of District personnel, including administrators, teachers, school social workers, speech therapists and other service staff members.
The committee works to provide professional development opportunities for staff members on such topics as SEL concepts and techniques, restorative approaches, classroom management strategies and the effect of trauma on learning.
The success of the Social Justice League reflects District 401's dedication to creating a positive learning environment for all of our students, with SEL an essential component of instruction.
SEL CURRICULAR PROGRAMS
During the 2018-19 school year, various staff members at District 401 schools covering grades PK-8 began piloting SEL instruction in their classrooms using the Second Step curriculum.
At the same time, teachers at the high school learned how to use the RULER program for SEL instruction in their respective classes.
Beginning in 2019-20, all classrooms within the District implemented an SEL curriculum. Pre-K through 8th grade put into practice Second Step, while the high school incorporated RULER.
All of this has been done in support of District 401's core commitment to strengthening our students’ social-emotional growth and development in addition to their academic growth and readiness.
DISTRICT 401'S POLICY ON SEL
Our implementation of SEL curriculum and instruction is governed by District 401's policy on student social and emotional development, which can be found in Section 6:65 of the Board of Education's District Policy Manual.
At each grade level our students explore the relationship between individuals and society, from friends and family to local civic institutions and global networks.
They learn how to develop questions, plan inquiries, evaluate sources, use evidence, communicate conclusions and take informed action.
Our standards-based curriculum draws on a variety of social science disciplines, including civics, geography, history, financial literacy and economics.
By the time our students move on to middle school, they have received the necessary foundation for becoming civically engaged, socially responsible, culturally aware and financially literate.
District 401 students learn the language of the visual arts from the earliest grades. They are introduced to the fundamental elements of line, shape, space, color and texture. They learn about the principles of repetition and pattern. They study the expressive qualities of mood, emotion and pictorial representation.
They are also introduced to the processes, traditional tools and modern technologies of the visual arts.
Using this knowledge, they learn how to create their own works of art that embody the principles of balance, unity, harmony, pattern, contrast and emphasis.
District 401 students learn the language of music from the earliest grades. They learn, for example, how to identify differences in the elements and expressive qualities of music, such as fast and slow tempo, loud and soft dynamics, high and low pitch/direction, long and short duration, as well as same and different form.
As they progress through the curriculum, students are introduced to more sophisticated elements and expressive qualities such as tone color, harmony, melody, form (rondo, theme and variation), rhythm/meter and dynamics in a variety of musical styles.
They also learn how to relate symbol systems to musical sounds and how to read and interpret the traditional music notation of note values and letter names.
Performance is also a key part of the curriculum. Students sing or play on classroom instruments a variety of music representing diverse cultures and styles.
PE classes focus on building fitness skills for lifetime health. Our teachers use sports, games and other instructional activities to show students how to achieve and maintain physical fitness.
Our students acquire and demonstrate physical competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns. They also acquire and demonstrate a knowledge of rules, strategies and safety procedures during physical activity.
Although we have no official health class, our PE teachers incorporate standards-based health instruction within the curriculum, such as basic principles of health promotion and illness prevention.
Although the use of technology is incorporated in our classes at every grade level, students also receive formal technology instruction throughout their time at District 401's two elementary schools, Elmwood and John Mills.
Our curriculum is aligned to the International Society for Technology in Education standards.
Through active, project-based learning, students acquire the skills and knowledge they need to become:
► Empowered learners
► Digital citizens
► Constructors of knowledge
► Innovative designers
► Computational thinkers
► Creative communicators
► Global collaborators
By the time our students move on to middle school, they have received a solid foundation for engaging and thriving in a connected, digital world.