ABCs of Ferndale Education

Ferndale Elementary School Lower & Upper Campus Common Language



Years of research show that Art Education is closely linked to almost everything that we as a nation say we want for our children and demand from our schools: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity. Involvement in the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. Arts learning can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork.


The extent to which a school district’s curriculum in any given content area is common from K through 12, so that student skills spiral and build from year to year.

Atlas Rubicon

A mapping system that allows students, parents and educators to easily view the curriculum expectations of each grade level and subject in the core content areas. A valuable tool that provides a consistent, clear understanding for all stakeholders of the teaching and learning that takes place in our Ferndale classrooms.


The term "accommodation" is used to describe an alteration of environment, curriculum format, or equipment that allows any person with or without a disability to gain access to content and/or complete assigned tasks. They allow students with disabilities to pursue a regular course of study. Accommodations do not alter what is being taught, instructors should be able to implement the same grading scale for students with disabilities as they do for students without disabilities.


Best Practices

An umbrella term that encompasses the wide range of individual activities, policies, and programmatic approaches to achieve positive changes in student attitudes or academic behaviors.

Brain Based Learning

The basic theory behind brain-based learning is total body immersion in a topic. Teachers make use of the classroom space to arouse all senses. Brain-based learning helps students relax in order to improve alertness. School is a challenging environment that often produces a stress response that can interfere with learning. Teachers play music, introduce soft scents and dim lighting to promote a stress free learning arena. Stimulate social skills to improve the experience. People retain better understanding of a concept when they utilize their social skills. The more complex and hands-on a teaching assignment is, the better the cognitive stimulation. Teachers introduce art, music, and movement break into lessons. Brain-based education is about eliminating barriers and allowing the mind to work without distractions. Studies show that a traditional lecture environment is less effective than immersion in a subject.

Balanced Literacy

The components of a 'balanced literacy' approach are as follows: the read aloud, guided reading, shared reading, interactive writing, shared writing, Reading Workshop, Writing Workshop and Word study



Is an international curriculum that prepares students for life, helping them develop an informed curiosity and a lasting passion for learning. Cambridge primary is developed for all students and focuses on inquiry based,  reflective learning practices.


Learning to deep learn, armed with the essential character traits of frit, tenacity, perseverance, and resilience; and the ability to make learning an integral part of living.


Learning to understand others; learn about diversity, values and worldviews with a genuine interest and ability to work together, look into real world problems, and make a difference to human and environment.


Work interdependently together, learn from and contribute to the learning of others.


Learn how to communicate effectively with a variety of styles, modes, and tools (including digital tools).

Common Core

A set of high-quality, research based, academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA). These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade.

Conceptual Understanding

Knowing more than isolated facts and methods. The successful student understands mathematical ideas, and has the ability to transfer their knowledge into new situations and apply it to new contexts. This deep conceptual understanding is a key principle for school mathematics of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and the Common Core State Standards for Math.


Involves  having a conversation with students about their reading and writing. Conferring always has a clear purpose and predictable structure. Conferring can be used to inform instruction, monitor student growth, and provide students feedback on their understanding of the ELA and Literacy Common Core.

Conscious Discipline

A comprehensive classroom management program and a social-emotional curriculum. It is based on current brain research, child development information, and developmentally appropriate practices. Conscious Discipline has been specifically designed to make changes in the lives of adults first.


Students who participate in the arts read more often, are four times more likely to do public service, four times more likely to be in a math or science fair, and three times more likely to be elected to a class office than other students. Music education improves listening skills, enhances language development and verbal skills, helps students to become more disciplined, and has health benefits such as stress reduction and better sleep. Physical education promotes life-long fitness, health, and wellness and reduces risk of chronic disease. It teaches self-management skills and motor skills that can be used to plan for and perform life-long physical activity. All three programs contribute to cognitive function and improved test scores in math, language arts and other academic subjects. All three are important to developing creativity — a crucial factor in school and post-school success. The evidence is clear that time spent in these special programs does not result in less learning because of less time studying other subject matters — quite the contrary — time spent in these programs enhances school success.


Having an ‘entrepreneurial eye’ for academic and social opportunities, asking the right inquiry questions to generate ideas, and leadership to pursue those ideas and turn them into action.

Critical Thinking

Looking at information, identifying patterns, making connections, constructing meaningful knowledge, and applying it in a useful manner.



Facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis and use to make instructional decisions that impact individual, small group, whole class and grade level learning

Data Binders/Folders

Data folders empower students to become accountable for their learning. By writing goals/objectives based on actual course or subject objectives, students have control over their pace of learning. Goals/objectives are also written by students to capture short-term gains to motivate themselves to achieve long-range goals.

Differentiated Instruction

 The way in which a teacher anticipates and responds to a variety of student needs in the classroom. To meet student needs, teachers differentiate by modifying the content (what is being taught), the process (how it is taught) and the product (how students demonstrate their learning).

Depth of Knowledge (DOK)

Categorizes tasks according to the complexity of thinking required to successfully complete them. Teachers use the different levels to support thinking, understanding, and conceptualizing.

Level 1: Recall and Reproduction

Tasks at this level require recall of facts or rote application of simple procedures. The task does not require any cognitive effort beyond remembering the right response or formula. Copying, computing, defining, and recognizing are typical Level 1 tasks.

Level 2: Skills and Concepts

At this level, a student must make some decisions about his or her approach. Tasks with more than one mental step such as comparing, organizing, summarizing, predicting, and estimating are usually Level 2.

Level 3: Strategic Thinking

At this level of complexity, students must use planning and evidence, and thinking is more abstract. A task with multiple valid responses where students must justify their choices would be Level 3. Examples include solving non-routine problems, designing an experiment, or analyzing characteristics of a genre.

Level 4: Extended Thinking

Level 4 tasks require the most complex cognitive effort. Students synthesize information from multiple sources, often over an extended period of time, or transfer knowledge from one domain to solve problems in another. Designing a survey and interpreting the results, analyzing multiple texts by to extract themes, or writing an original myth in an ancient style would all be examples of Level 4.


An understanding that each individual is unique and recognize our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.


Emotional Intelligence

Emotions drive learning, decision-making, creativity, relationships, and health. Teaching students to understand emotions, feelings, and positive mindset is essential for school success. We use programs like InspirED.


Refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their education.


Taking students from where they are and moving forward. Characteristics of Enrichment - student led-centered, data driven, mastery learning, meets students where they are at, supplemental, relationship based, and accelerates their student directed learning. Current Supports in Place: Education City  K-2,Study Island 3-6, and  Focus Groups


Artifacts, examples, and models of what is expected for work, assignments, projects, and behavior.



Degree to which the program is implemented as intended by program developer, including the quality of implementation.  Consistency, accuracy, and integrity.

Focus Studies

A program offering that students select as a special interest focus for a five to ten day block. These classes meet 60 minutes per day and all 3-5 students participate. Usually no more than 2 to 3 focus studies per year.

Fluency (Math)

Fluency refers to knowledge of facts, procedures, knowledge of when and how to use math facts appropriately. It is also the skill in performing math facts  flexibly, accurately, and efficiently. Fluency is NOT the same thing as speed.

Fluency (Reading)

The ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with expression. Fluency is important because it provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension. When fluent readers read silently, they recognize words automatically. They group words quickly to help them gain meaning from what they read.



The degree to which a person or organization focuses on tasks and the end results of those tasks.


High-Quality Instructions

Key Components: Learning climate, classroom assessment and reflection, Instructional Rigor, Student Engagement, Instructional Relevance, and Knowledge of Content. Characteristics of HQI include - Explicitness, Engaging practices, Planned with the end in mind, Purposeful, flexible, innovative, relevant, promotes growth mindset, student centered, interactive, feedback provided, monitoring of lesson effectiveness, differentiated and caring atmosphere.


Homework is practice for improvement. It is not a summative assignment. Our Homework guidelines support self-directed learning. We provide 3 variations of Homework assignments:

  1. Practice: Provides opportunity to apply new knowledge and reinforce acquired skills.
  2. Extension: Encourage students to pursue knowledge individually and imaginatively.
  3. Engagement: To provide children and families ideas/opportunities to support the whole child. Physical development - movement, exercise, and nutrition. Cognitive development - reading to, with, and for your child; working on math equations together using manipulatives. Language development - Setting aside our busy lives and having conversations about school, friends, and life.


Interactive Notebooks

A notebook that is used to organize information in a classroom. Students include teacher information (lecture notes, handouts, anchor charts, etc) and their own responses to tasks, including editing of and responses to own work.


Taking students from where they are and moving forward. Characteristics of Intervention - More time, in classroom, student led-centered, data driven, mastery learning, meets students where they are at, supplemental, relationship based.

Current Supports in Place:  Education City, K-2, Study Island 3-6,  Response to Intervention positions 7-12, Reading Specialists K-6, focus groups.



“Sometimes JOY is the source of your smile, but sometimes your SMILE can be the source of your JOY.” - Thich Nhat Hahn


Kindness Matters

Integrate kindness into everything you do, Ferndale Schools participates in the Great Kindness Challenge. A a powerful one-week initiative that challenges students to complete as many acts of kindness as possible.


Learning Outcomes

Also known as success criteria. Clear wording for students so they know what is expected to take place during the assignment and what they should know after completing assignment.

Love of Learning

What we hope to instill in every child, every day in Ferndale where students are engaged, find joy, and want to continue to learn.


MAISA Units of Study

Written, reviewed, and improved by Oakland County teachers, these are Common Core-aligned units of study in ELA and math that seek to increase student engagement, raise rigor, and encourage differentiation by utilizing the workshop model of teaching.

Math Instruction

A balanced approach that is focused on conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, reasoning and problem solving. Five essential characteristics of effective mathematics instruction are; the introduction, development of the concept, guided practice, summary and independent practice.


The term "modification" is used to describe a change in the curriculum. Modifications are made for students with disabilities who are unable to comprehend all of the content an instructor is teaching. For example, assignments might be reduced in number and modified significantly for an elementary school student with cognitive impairments that limit his/her ability to understand the content in general education class in which they are included.

Morning Meeting

Morning Meeting is an engaging way to start each day, build a strong sense of community, and set children up for success socially and academically. Each morning, students and teachers gather together in a circle for twenty to thirty minutes and interact with one another during four purposeful components:

  1. Greeting -  Students and teachers greet one another by name and practice offering hospitality.
  2. Sharing -  Students share information about important events in their lives.
  3. Group Activity -  To focus on social skills, character education, and building social emotional development.
  4. Morning Message -  Students read and interact with a short message and quote of the week.  The message is crafted to help students focus on the work and build self esteem.

Discover our responsive classrooms.

Music Education

A field of study associated with the teaching and learning of music. Ferndale Schools prides itself on using music to engage, teach, and support our children’s learning.

Multi-Tiered School Support

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) defines Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) as an integrated, multi-tiered system of instruction, assessment, and intervention designed to meet the achievement and behavioral health needs of ALL learners. In short, an MTSS framework is designed to ensure that each and every student that walks into a classroom will have his or her individual needs met through high-quality instruction.

Learn more about MDE from the State of Michigan.



Every neurotransmitter in our brain is in our heart! We have more neurotransmitters in our heart going to our brain than vice versa.

NWEA–Northwest Evaluation Association

Research-based, computerized assessments that help educators answer a crucial question: Are my students learning? By delivering precise, real-time information about every student’s learning triumphs and challenges, it supports teachers and students in moving forward academically.



One Team, Endless Dreams

A theme provides unity with a group of stakeholders. As a district we have moved into a theme that can be used year to year with deep meaning, but provide each school and classroom to use the ‘theme’ in their own unique way.

Open Classroom

Open Classroom is an unique focus on the whole child that facilitates growth academically, emotionally, socially, and physically. Collaboration between children, teachers, parents, and community members creates a community of learners and a purposeful learning environment. Since the start of Open Classroom, 40 years ago, it has included project-based learning, parent/community volunteers, mentors, outdoor education, and a focus on a positive self-esteem. These concepts continue to support the instruction of Ferndale Elementary Schools.

Outdoor Education

Active learning, camp experiences, and outdoor activities introduce young people to the environment in a way which develops understanding, appreciation, awe, wonder and respect. It fosters sensitivity to the environment, helps young people to see themselves in a global context and helps to develop citizens with an awareness of the need for sustainable use of the world’s natural resources.


Parent Involvement

The participation of parents and family members in every facet of children’s education and development from birth to adulthood, recognizing that parents are the primary influence in children’s lives.  Parent involvement takes many forms, including:

  • Two-way communication between parents and schools
  • Supporting parents as children’s primary educators and integral to their learning
  • Encouraging parents to participate in volunteer work
  • Sharing responsibility for decision making about children’s education, health, and well-bein
  • Collaborating with community organizations that reflect our schools’ aspirations for all children

Parent Communication

In our elementary schools there are numerous ways for parent communication. School newsletter, classroom newsletter, teacher websites/blogs, email, phone calls, Class DoJo, and face to face connections. We know the importance of the home/school connections!

Physical Education

Prepares children to be physically and mentally active, fit and healthy...for life. Here are some of the many benefits children receive from a quality PE program:

  • improves physical fitness, skill and motor skills development
  • provides regular, healthful physical activity
  • teaches self discipline
  • facilitates development of student responsibility for health and fitness
  • influences moral development, leadership, cooperation with others
  • Reduces stress, tension, and anxiety
  • strengthens peer relationships
  • improves self-confidence and self-esteem
  • helps you respect your body, classmates and teammates
  • allows for experience in setting goals
  • improves academics - the big bonus benefit!

Positive Behavior Interventional Support

A set of research-based strategies used to increase quality of life and decrease problem behavior by teaching new skills and making changes in a person's environment. Discover more at

(PLC) Professional Learning Communities

An ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve. Professional learning communities operate under the assumption that the key to improved learning for students is continuous job-embedded learning for educators. Ferndale staff members meet on designated Wednesdays throughout the year in PLC teams to focus on grade level or content-based work. 

Project Based Learning

An approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges. Active and engaged learning, students are inspired to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they’re studying. Read on about PBL from BIE.



Ferndale believes in the importance of character education. Each week students learn a new Character Quote of the Week and the quote is embedded into each classroom/school.


Responsive Classroom

a way of teaching that emphasizes social, emotional, and academic growth in a strong and safe school community. Responsive Classroom goes hand in hand with Conscious Discipline, Whole Child Approach, and Open Classroom.

Reader's Workshop

A teaching method in which the goal is to explicitly teach students strategies to become more skillful at comprehending text. Reader's workshop involves students in authentic reading experiences that focus on the strengths and needs of each individual student through differentiated instruction.


A term that focuses on creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so that he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels (Blackburn, 2008).


Self Directed Learning

A process to teach each child to take the initiative and the responsibility for what occurs. Individuals select, manage, and assess their own learning activities, which can be pursued at any time, in any place, through any means, at any age. In Ferndale, we have specific expectations at each level.

Social-Emotional Development

provides the foundation for how we feel about ourselves and how we experience others. It contributes to a child’s self confidence and empathy, their ability to develop meaningful and lasting friendships and partnerships, and their sense of importance and value to those around her. Children’s social and emotional development influences all other areas of development - cognitive, motor, and language development.

Small Group Instruction

Refers to a teacher working with a small group of students on a specific learning objective. Small groups consist of 3 - 6 students and provide these students with a reduced student-teacher ratio. Small group instruction usually follows whole group instruction. It allows teachers to work more closely with each student, reinforce skills, and check for student understanding. It allows students more of the teacher's attention and gives them a chance to ask specific questions they may have about what they learned. Small groups are flexible and change with data.


To support our Positive Behavior Support plans all students learn specific expectations that are to be valued, followed, and modeled throughout school and life. Each building has a matrix that defines what this looks like and sounds like within the school, classrooms, restrooms, hallways, playground, busses, etc.  Soar stands for:

  • S - Show Respect
  • O - Own Your Behavior
  • A - Act in Excellence
  • R - Ready to learn

Standards-Based Grading

Standards-based grading “involves measuring students’ proficiency on well-defined course objectives.” (Tomlinson & McTighe, 2006). (Note: Standards-based reporting involves reporting these course objectives rather than letter grades at the end of each grading/reporting period.) Ferndale Elementary uses standards-based report cards.

School Culture

The feel, sense, and pulse that permeates each school with an exciting, vibrant sense of purposefulness that fosters growth in staff, students, and community. Characteristics of SC that you should see; purposeful community, collaboration, character development, celebrating success, teamwork, inclusiveness, life skills, purposeful, welcoming, proud, safe, school family, togetherness, growth mindset, trust, high expectations, belonging, empathy, respect, relationships, empowerment, accountability, change drive, and commUNITY.

Special Education

The practice of educating students with special needs in a way that addresses their individual differences and needs.

School Family

The School Family does not replace a child’s home family, but it is a term used to create a compassionate learning environment that supports the continued development of all children and all adults involved (a sense of belonging.) Research shows that a sustainable, caring school climate increases academic achievement, mental health, graduation rates, school connectedness, teacher retention and risk prevention.

Standardized Tests

Any form of test that (1) requires all test takers to answer the same questions, or a selection of questions from common bank of questions, in the same way, and that (2) is scored in a “standard” or consistent manner, which makes it possible to compare the relative performance of individual students or groups of students. While different types of tests and assessments may be “standardized” in this way, the term is primarily associated with large-scale tests administered to sizeable populations of students, such as the new M-Step in Michigan.

Student Achievement Team (SAT)

The purpose of the SAT is for teachers, specialists, and support staff to develop an intervention plan to address the needs of a child’s academic, behavioral, and/or attendance concerns. The ultimate goal of the Student Achievement Team is to assist all children who may need curriculum modifications, additional support or other interventions in place to reach his/her school potential in all areas of development.



The new 21st century learners must master more than the core curriculum to succeed in secondary and postsecondary institutions, as well as in the workplace. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a national organization advocating for 21st century readiness for every student, explains the outcomes of this transformation as fusing the traditional three R’s with four C’s: critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration in a technology-infused learning environment. This environment calls for two elements: We must increasingly put technology into the hands of students and must trust them with more progressive technology use.



A reminder that we are interconnected; we are all in this together.



The ongoing social, academic and emotional success of our kids relies heavily on the amazing network of parents and guardians. Here are a few reasons why we want YOU:

  1. It truly does take a village
  2. A little goes a long way
  3. Everyone has something to offer
  4. Your child will benefit, and
  5. You will benefit - what you offer others strengthens within yourself.


Word Study

Word study is more than a spelling program, it allows students the opportunity to explore and build understanding in the patterns within words.  Rather than learning to spell separate words, students are learning how word patterns work and how to use those patterns to solve unknown words.  Instruction also focuses on developing students’ abilities in phonics, word recognition, and increasing vocabulary.  This word knowledge can then be applied across reading, writing and spelling.

World Language

The purpose of elementary world language is to prepare students to begin developing functional skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in Spanish. The goal is to provide a nurturing environment where students feel comfortable learning a second language, and encourage all students to develop an openness, understanding, and appreciation for other cultures. Students will develop proficiency in oral and written communication in Spanish through the integration of language skills and concepts taught in the content areas.

Whole Child

A whole child approach to education is defined by policies, practices, and relationships that ensure each child, in each school, in each community, is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. Cognitive, Physical, Social-Emotional, and Language Development goes hand in hand with Conscious Discipline, Responsive Classroom, and Open Classroom.

Writer's Workshop

is an interdisciplinary writing technique which can build students' fluency in writing through continuous, repeated exposure to the process of writing. Discover more at  the Reading and Writing Project.



Excellence is the unlimited ability to improve the quality of what you have to offer.” -Rick Pitino



You make Ferndale Public Schools a better place. Thank you for all you do!



Enthusiastic, keen, passionate, fervent, ardent, fanatical, eager, extreme, avid, adoring and loving…Our students, our families, our community - Ferndale School District!

Curriculum and Instruction Department
Central Offices
871 Pinecrest
Rooms 333-335
Ferndale, MI 48220

Curriculum & Instruction Staff

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment
Curriculum Coordinator
Curriculum/SACC Coordinator