Effective instruction for all students is a very complicated endeavor.  Our students come to us at varying levels of readiness and abilities so our instructional strategies and materials must be used flexibly to meet the wide variety of student needs while still holding a structure that brings consistency to the program for the grade level standards.  Our core program is the foundation of our instruction.  All teachers use these materials and strategies.  On occasion teachers will supplement their instruction with other resources when students struggle with a concept.

Language Arts

Hamilton City School District has a balanced approach to literacy. Our goal is to ensure that students are able to critically read, write, and communicate effectively. The basic structure for Elementary Language Arts instruction is the Four Blocks Literacy Model. The core components are guided reading, self selected reading, working with words, and writing. These blocks often work together in an integrated fashion but also ensure that the student receives instruction in all of the literacies. This includes the ability to speak and listen. Our current materials (Harcourt Storytown, Junior Great Books etc..) provide opportunities for our students to engage in small group discussions, debates, shared inquiry and presentations.

Guided Reading

The foundation of this block is driven by the goal daily reading for our students. In the primary grades students are “learning to read”, but as the students move to the intermediate grades they are “reading to learn.” Teachers will work with students to learn basic decoding and reading skills in the early grades and then move towards helping students to closely read and comprehend materials. The ultimate goal of the reading block is to provide strategies to students that help them to comprehend the text and think throughout the process of reading. Students will be reading fiction and nonfiction selections from a basal as well as trade books and other supplementary materials that enrich the experience. The purpose of this instructional block is to teach students to apply reading skills and strategies in the context of “real” reading.

Primary Grades (K-3rd) Example

Before Reading.
In the primary grades a picture walk through the story allows the students to discuss the basic concepts, develop story specific vocabulary, and make predictions that makes sense based on the pictures. The teacher helps students to develop background knowledge and sets a purpose for reading. At this time new the integration of the phonics lesson (our Orton Gillingham program) will bring additional experience to the children.

During Reading.
For our youngest children, the teacher will read the story with them first. This provides an example for the children to follow. For our more competent readers, the teacher will allow them to read the story on their own and then work in pairs to read it aloud to one another again helping one another to answer comprehension questions and practicing phonics skills.. While students are working independently and in pairs the teacher works with small groups.

After Reading.
Finally the children will show their understanding of the story. Whole group discussion will be followed by an activity to demonstrate the depth of their understanding. This can happen in a variety of ways including a journal entry or drawing a storyboard of the setting, characters, and problem in the story. It might be an assignment to describe their favorite character in more detail or make a “Wanted Poster”. Demonstration of comprehension can happen in a variety of ways to meet the needs of each child.

Intermediate Grades (4th-6th).

Before Reading.
In the intermediate grades, the class will begin with one of many preview activities that help to build background information for the story. One example is a KWL Chart. In the KWL, students discuss what they Know about the topic, what they Want to know, and (after their work is completed) what they have Learned. Teachers might also provide an article or internet site that provides the children with background knowledge. If the story were “A Coal Miner’s Daughter”, the teacher may direct the students to view a video on coal mining before coming to class. The background knowledge will help students use topic specific vocabulary and make connections to the big concepts of the selection in greater depth.

During Reading.
There are a variety of ways that the teacher can help students successfully comprehend the reading selection. The teacher may work with a large group or with small groups to read the story. The goal is to help students think and make connections as they read, so the teacher will often provide questions and activities that help the students comprehend throughout the story. While the students are working through their initial reading, the teacher will often meet with small groups of students to ensure that they are on track with the assignment and have the specific skills to comprehend the selection.

After Reading.
There are many strategies the teacher may use to ensure students are comprehending the text. Following the first reading of the story, students discuss the story in large or small groups and make connections to previous learning or their own lives. The discussion may be in the form of free flow discussion or organized debate or analysis. In the intermediate grades, writing becomes a daily part of reading. Often students make written responses that document their thinking and analysis of the selection. There are many ways for the students to demonstrate their comprehension in writing and in speech, and the teacher will work to provide activities that meet the needs of each child.

Self Selected Reading.
This component is designed to build lifelong readers by helping students connect to books that interest them and are written at their reading level. Teachers work with each child to find a good match between book and child ensuring that the student reads a variety of different books. The goal is daily practice of reading skills with books they will enjoy and be able to read with moderate effort. In Hamilton the elementary classroom is a print rich environment that provides reading opportunities for students with a wide range of reading levels and interests.

Working with Words.
Phonics, spelling patterns, and memorization of high frequency words fit into this instructional block. In the early grades, our students spend much of this time in phonics instruction. Our primary program is the Orton Gillingham Multisensory Approach to Reading Instruction. This phonics based program uses a range of instructional strategies that meet the differing learning styles of our students . The program helps students break words apart while reading and put them together for spelling. Also, young students work to develop confidence with words that do not follow the typical phonics and spelling patterns. I

The writing block is driven by the principle that students become better writers by writing more often. With this in mind, teachers provide writing opportunities that help students to use their phonetic understandings in a “real” way and an opportunity to express themselves. The writing block is built around “the writing process” which helps students develop writing in several steps. These steps include brainstorming ideas (often the hardest for young writers), drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. This process is modeled by the teacher throughout the year, so students receive instruction and guidance as they work to brainstorm and draft their thoughts on paper as well as revise and edit their writing to make it better. This process emphasizes the belief that students should be shown how to write by giving strategies and guidance throughout the process.

Hamilton City School District teaches handwriting, including cursive, in grades K-4th. It is not only important for our students to know how to form the letters, but the fine motor skill development that is part of handwriting development transfers to other fine motor skills.


Harcourt Storytown (K-6th)
Orton – Gillingham Multisensory Approach to Reading (K-3rd)
Reading A to Z (K–5th)
Grade Level Novels and Nonfiction Texts (4th-6th)
Writer’s Companion (1st-6th)
Zaner Bloser Handwriting (K-4th)


To have complete and functional understanding of math, students must grasp the basic concepts of math, the step by step processes to solve equations, and how to use this mathematical knowledge in the real world to solve problems and communicate their solutions. To do this we must have a balance of skills practice and hands-on problem solving experiences that allow students to develop the understandings they need to be mathematically proficient. The Scott Foresman Mathematics text, as well as Investigations, and Connected Math programs provide this balanced approach.

In the primary grades, students begin their study of number concepts with hands-on experiences using objects to gain understanding and then move to using equations to represent the math concept. In the intermediate grades, teachers continue to use hands-on strategies as well as more abstract strategies, to introduce concepts such as arrays (an orderly arrangement of objects, often in rows, columns, or a matrix) before students begin to solve multiplication equations.

As students move from grade to grade, they will learn new math concepts that require them to draw on the prior years’ learning experiences. The foundational skills they learn in elementary school provide the building blocks for their success in middle school and high school.

A great deal of emphasis is placed on using their math knowledge to solve problems. “Story problems” and “real world” problems begin in the early grades and continue in the upper grade. Practice with these types of problems is critical to take math from something the student does at school or for homework to using it as a tool to make your way in the world.

Another critical aspect of our program is the communication of mathematical ideas. The math practices in the Common Core are asking children to explain their mathematical thinking, represent their ideas and make sense of other people’s ideas. In other words, our students must be able to communicate and work with others to solve problems.

As students move from grade to grade, they will learn new math concepts that require them to draw on the prior years’ learning experiences. The foundational skills they learn in elementary school provide the building blocks for their success in middle school and high school.

Our students also practice skills and concepts using two specific websites, Math IXL for 1st and 2nd graders and Khan Academy for 3rd through 6th graders. These programs are available for use at home and allow students, not only practice skills that are being taught in the classroom, but explore other mathematical ideas of interest.


Scott Forsman Mathematics (K-6th)
Investigations (K-6th)
Math IXL (1st-2nd)
Khan Academy (3rd-6th)


The focus of the Hamilton City School District Science Program at the elementary level is to provide hands-on learning investigations using non-fiction text to explore the following topics at each grade level:

Grade Level Topics

  • Kindergarten: Daily and Seasonal Change; Properties of Objects; Physical and Behavioral Traits of Living Things
  • 1st Grade: Sun, Energy, and Weather; Motion and Materials; Physical Needs of Living Things
  • 2nd Grade: The Atmosphere; Changes in Motion; Interactions within Habitats
  • 3rd Grade: Earth’s Resources; Matter and Forms of Energy; Behavior, Growth, and Changes
  • 4th Grade: Earth’s Surface; Electricity, Heat, and Matter; Earth’s History
  • 5th Grade: Cycles and Patterns in the Solar System; Light, Sound and Motion; Interactions within Ecosystems
  • 6th Grade: Rocks and Minerals; Nature of Matter, Motion, and Energy; Cell Theory

The focus of our social studies program is to help our young citizens learn more about the history, geography, government, and economics of our country and the world in which we live. One of our goals is to help them to understand how our country came to be, the role natural resources play in providing strong economic opportunities, and the freedoms of a democratic society, and our place in the world. Our youngest students begin by studying their families and neighborhood and each year after we broaden our students awareness of the world. During the elementary years, we study each of the four main social studies areas as part of integrated units under the following themes:

  • Kindergarten – A Child’s Place in Time and Space
  • Grade 1- Families Now and Long Ago, Near and Far
  • Grade 2- People Working Together
  • Grade 3 – Communities: Past and Present, Near and Far
  • Grade 4 – Ohio in the United States
  • Grade 5 – Regions and People of the Western Hemisphere
  • Grade 6 – Regions and People of the Eastern Hemisphere