Advanced Learning Opportunities


Offering advanced learning opportunities is one way that St. Joseph students can attain personal academic growth. We address their academic readiness, intellectual curiosity and opportunities for accelerated learning in every classroom, on any given day. At St. Joseph School, we offer engaging experiences and rigorous curriculum to all students.

We also recognize that some of our students demonstrate skills and readiness for participation in an accelerated and enriched curriculum. In such circumstances, a student may benefit from curricula, instruction, or learning experiences that supplement those that are provided in the classroom.

If you have questions or would like to learn more about the ALO program contact Emily Weinberg.

What Advanced Learning Looks Like?

Advanced learning can occur in every classroom at every grade level at St. Joseph School.

Instructional Strategies for advanced learning may include:

  • Engaging in inquiry-based learning
  • Increasing the level of independence, self-direction and motivation
  • Regulating the pace of a lesson(s)
  • Adjusting content, product or process
  • Creating an environment that encourages and supports taking academic risks within a group of like peers

Instructional Tasks for advanced learning may include:

  • Asking and answering high-level questions
  • Exploring content in greater depth
  • Thinking like an expert in a specific discipline such as a scientist, historian or mathematician
  • Thinking critically and considering multiple perspectives
  • Participating in independent small group projects
  • Using learning centers
  • Exploring concepts and philosophical understandings of ideas
  • Providing evidence to support ideas
  • Determining multiple solutions or paths in solving problems that may or may not be abstract
  • Creating sophisticated products or ideas that challenge others or cause change
  • Using contract management plans

Identification Process

The identification process begins with a general screening to create a group of students who may demonstrate readiness for an accelerated curriculum. This stage is based upon several sources of data which are combined and reviewed by the ALO specialist for identification, placement and provided services.

In addition to the general screening, the ALO specialist and classroom teacher examine student work and assessments to create flexible groups of students who demonstrate the academic readiness to be successful with the ALO class objectives.

Identification measurements used include:

Grades 1-2

  • MAP testing
  • Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA)
  • Classroom Teacher Rubrics
  • Other assessments as needed, to be determined by the ALO specialist
Grades 3-5

  • MAP testing
  • Classroom Teacher Rubrics
  • Other assessments as needed, to be determined by the ALO specialist

Class Descriptions

Class Descriptions

  • Integrates Common Core English Language Arts Standards
  • Uses interdisciplinary approach
  • Emphasizes creative problem solving skills
  • Demands higher-order thinking skills
  • Offers an accelerated and compacted format
  • Promotes self-reflection and self-assessment
  • Small group setting
  • Flexible groups determined by unit objectives

FAQs

What is ALO at St. Joseph School?

Our mission at St. Joseph School is to create a faith-centered community that educates and inspires students to reach their God-given potential. We are committed to the full, holistic development of each child. As part of carrying out our mission, we work to ensure that all students strive for and achieve personal academic excellence.

Offering advanced learning opportunities is one way that St. Joseph students can attain personal academic growth. We address their academic readiness, intellectual curiosity and opportunities for accelerated learning in every classroom, on any given day. At St. Joseph School, we offer engaging experiences and rigorous curriculum to all students. We also recognize that some of our students demonstrate skills and readiness for participation in an accelerated and enriched curriculum. In such circumstances, a student may benefit from curricula, instruction, or learning experiences that supplement those that are provided in the classroom.

We are in our third year of offering Advanced Learning Opportunities (ALO) and have plans to expand the program each year. Currently, our ALO program is for students in grades 1-5, and it focuses on literacy. ALO classes provide enriched and accelerated learning at intensity, depth and pace that meets the student’s intellectual needs, curiosity and motivation levels. In addition, the ALO specialist serves as a resource for the classroom teachers on differentiating instruction for the advanced learners.

Why is there an ALO program at St. Joseph School?

Our mission at St. Joseph School is to create a faith-centered community that educates and inspires students to reach their God-given potential. We are committed to the full, holistic development of each child. As part of carrying out our mission, we work to ensure that all students strive for and achieve personal academic excellence.

Offering advanced learning opportunities is one way that St. Joseph students can attain personal academic growth. We address their academic readiness, intellectual curiosity and opportunities for accelerated learning in every classroom, on any given day. At St. Joseph School, we offer engaging experiences and rigorous curriculum to all students. Advanced learning can occur in every classroom at every grade at St. Joseph School. Please visit the ALO information page on the St. Joseph website for examples of how advanced learning happens in the classroom.

We also recognize that some of our students demonstrate skills and readiness for participation in an accelerated and enriched curriculum. In such circumstances, a student may benefit from curricula, instruction, or learning experiences that supplement those that are provided in the classroom.

What does flexible grouping mean?

Flexible grouping is defined as “grouping that is not static, where members of the group change. Groups are formed and change routinely depending on the learning outcomes and the needs of the students” (Heacox and Cash, 2014). When these flexible groups are formed, it is best practice to group students “by their likeness, based on students’ readiness, interest or learning profiles” (Heacox and Cash, 2014).

How is a child identified for ALO?

The identification process begins with a general screening to create a group of students who may demonstrate readiness for an accelerated curriculum. This stage is based upon several sources of data which are combined and reviewed by the ALO specialist for identification, placement and provided services.

In addition to the general screening, the ALO specialist and classroom teacher examine student work and assessments to create flexible groups of students who demonstrate the academic readiness to be successful with the ALO class objectives. Flexible grouping is defined as “grouping that is not static, where members of the group change. Groups are formed and change routinely depending on the learning outcomes and the needs of the students” (Heacox and Cash, 2014). When these flexible groups are formed, it is best practice to group students “by their likeness, based on students’ readiness, interest or learning profiles” (Heacox and Cash, 2014).

Identification measurements used include:

Grade 1-2

  • STAR Reading Assessment
  • Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA)
  • Classroom Teacher Rubrics
  • Other assessments as needed, to be determined by the ALO specialist

Grades 3-5:

  • Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) and Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT)
  • STAR Reading Assessment
  • Classroom Teacher Rubrics
  • Other assessments as needed, to be determined by the ALO specialist

What does a typical ALO class look like?

ALO Units are developed to enrich current classroom learning. When designing units, the ALO teacher uses the grade-level curriculum and Common Core standards as its foundation.

Grade 1
For the fall session, the ALO teacher meets with individual students in the child's classroom to gather information about the a child's readiness for the ALO program. The teacher and child discuss choosing good fit books and work on comprehension skills. For the winter and spring sessions, groups of approximately 2-5 students meet two times per week for 25 minute sessions. Students focus on developing comprehension and communication skills through a variety texts. One time per week the ALO teacher meets with students individually to check-in on oral reading and comprehension skills.

Grades 2-3
A group of approximately 10-12 students meets two times per week for 45-60 minute sessions. Students:

  • use critical thinking skills to interpret a shared text.
  • reinforce thinking and understanding through specific writing assignments.
  • may participate in a research project that allows for application of these learned skills.


Grades 4-5
A group of approximately 10-12 students meets two to three times per week for 40-50 minute sessions. Students:

  • use critical thinking skills to interpret a shared text.
  • reinforce thinking and understanding through specific writing assignments.
  • use information literacy skills to research a problem.

How many children are in an ALO class?

A typical ALO class in first grade has about 5 students. ALO classes in second through fifth grade have approximately 10-12 students. These classes look different at each grade level; however the focus is on reading and writing. Please see the “What does a typical class look like?” question for more specific information.

What does the ALO grading look like and mean?

End-of-session reports are given for students in grades 1-5. These reports include information about the strategies used, tasks accomplished, and goals for future advancement.

  • Grade 1: Students receive Developmental Reading Assessment scores (DRA) on the end-of-session reports. The students’ ALO performance is factored into the child’s language arts grade on PowerSchool.
  • Grades 2-5: Rubrics aligned to ALO course objectives are used to assess writing and larger assignments. It is the responsibility of the student to share returned and scored assignments with his/her parent/s. The students’ ALO performance is factored into the child’s language arts grade on PowerSchool.

What communications, including student reports, can be expected?

Beginning of session:

  • Students identified for the ALO program will receive notification from the Learning Resource Specialist prior to starting classes.
  • Students identified for the ALO program in grades 2-5 will also receive a contract. The contract needs to be reviewed and signed by the parent/guardian and child. This should be returned no later than a week after classes have started.

End of session:

  • Students in grades 1-5 will receive an end-of-session report that includes information about the strategies used, tasks accomplished, and goals for future advancement.

Homework:

  • Parents of students in 1st and 2nd grade will receive notification of homework assignments via email.
Students in grades 3-5 will have assignments posted online. The expectation is that the students in grades 3-5 will bring their assignment notebook to each class and record the assignments.

How much homework will my child receive?

The purpose of ALO homework is to allow students to prepare for an upcoming class, complete activities not finished in class and/or complete assignments that are too time consuming to complete in class. Being in the ALO program requires students to have the necessary organization and time management systems in place to be able to accomplish assignments outside of class time.

Grade 1
First grade students may have homework. If a child has an assignment, it may include:

  • assignments not completed in class
  • regular reading from assigned text
  • The ALO teacher will communicate via email with the parent if the child has an assignment. When applicable, assignments will be listed on the ALO website under the appropriate class section.


Grade 2
Second grade ALO students may have homework which would include:

  • assignments not completed in class.
  • reading, writing and/or research tasks to prepare for a lesson.
  • The ALO teacher will communicate via email with the parent if the child has an assignment. When applicable, assignments will be listed on the ALO website under the appropriate class section.


Grades 3-5
Third through fifth grade ALO students should expect to have homework each week. It may include:

  • assignments not completed in class.
  • reading, writing and/or research tasks to prepare for a lesson.
  • larger projects that require additional time to complete.
  • The ALO teacher will post the assignment on the ALO website under the appropriate class each week. It is the responsibility of the student to record and complete the assignment on time. When applicable, electronic versions of assignments will be made available on the website.

My child was in a previous ALO session and is not participating in the next session. Why is my child no longer participating in the class?

Children are identified for ALO pull-out classes based on his/her readiness for the unit objectives. A child’s intellectual needs, curiosity and motivation are also considered when identifying students for the program. Please see the “How is a child identified for ALO?” for more specific information about identification.
Once a child has participated in an ALO session, that child may or may not participate in future sessions. Factors that may result in a child no longer participating include:

  • decline in motivation
  • disorganization (including missed assignments and materials)
  • lack of interest
  • misbehavior
  • unit objectives not aligned to child’s current performance and/or readiness
Although a child may no longer be participating in the ALO classes, he/she can still apply the skills learned to his/her current class work.

How is a child supported upon return to his/her regular class setting?

We can classify “return to regular class setting” in three specific ways:

  1. a student returns after his/her weekly ALO classes
  2. a student returns at the end of an entire ALO session (end of trimester)
  3. a student returns at the end of an entire ALO session and is not recommended for the next session
In all three ways listed above, it is expected that the ALO child is applying skills learned in the ALO class to his/her regular class setting. For example, a third grade ALO student learns about denotations and connotations of words within an ALO class discussion. The ALO student uses that knowledge to understand word meanings more effectively while reading her “good fit book” during the Daily 5 Read-to-Self time. Skills and strategies learned will be applied differently based on the age and subject matter.

At the end of each session, the ALO teacher will share the end-of-session report with the student’s classroom teacher. This report outlines the strengths and areas of growth for each child. The classroom teacher can use that information to inform his/her instruction.

If a child is not recommended for the next session, the ALO teacher will meet with the student and review the end-of-session report with him/her. In addition, the ALO teacher will offer ways that he/she can use the skills learned in the regular class setting.

For the 2015-16 school year, the ALO teacher will more regularly collaborate with classroom teachers. Some ways include sharing differentiation strategies, modeling lessons, team teaching, and working in small groups within the classroom. An ALO resources website will be developed that will offer opportunities to support children in the ALO class, the regular class setting, and outside the classroom

How can I support my child outside of his/her class?

Resources are available on the website and through the ALO office for parents, students and teachers.

Five suggestions that can be used in any setting include:

  • Do not readily find solutions for students.
  • Always seek opportunities for brainstorming.
  • Compare and contrast anything and everything.
  • Categorize.
  • Encourage creativity.

From: Critical Thinking in the Elementary Classroom: Problems and Solutions (Vera Schneider)

If my child participates, will she/he miss classroom assignments?

The ALO classes are organized around the student’s regular classroom schedule. Every effort is made to pull the ALO group during the children’s literacy periods. This way the ALO students are working on reading and writing material at their level. There may be instances in which a participant needs to make-up a classroom assignment due to participation in the ALO program. When identifying students for participation in the program, the ALO specialist and classroom teachers are mindful of recommending students who are able to complete multiple assignments at one time.

Student Resources

Student Contests

Contests are available by subject area for various grades. Click for more information on how to participate in contests throughout the year.

Parent Resources

Scholarships & Online Learning Tools

Project Examples

Project Examples

  • Invention creation
  • Board game creation
  • Project Based Learning (PBL) Units
  • Green Team (environmental awareness team)
  • Poetry books
  • How To books
  • Fractured Fairy tale books