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Academic Approach

Overview

Balsam Academy Curriculum is much more than a syllabus, which outlines what is to be taught. It encompasses:

  • The learning environment
  • Resources
  • Teaching approaches and strategies
  • Assessment programs and methods
  • The values and ethos of the school
  • The relationships and behaviours among students and teachers.

These are all interconnected and provide the experiences that contribute to student learning. Our Curriculum is a sequence of elements: the intended, enacted, experienced, assessed, and achieved curriculum, each one responsive to the others. Each of these elements is aligned so that the intended learning is what is assessed and what students achieve.

Enacted Curriculum - through pedagogy that engages the student with the intended curriculum. Intended Curriculum - what we want students to learn. Achieved Curriculum - deciding what they have learned as a result of what we’ve taught. Experienced Curriculum - how students experience the curriculum differs from student to student. Assessed Curriculum - assessing if they have learned what we wanted them to learn. Reporting how well they have learned it.

The intended curriculum becomes a reality through teachers who deeply understand what it is that our students are required to learn and bring it to life through productive pedagogies that ensure that what is taught is actually learned.

Such teachers know that while teaching and learning are strongly connected, they are not the same.

By being clear about this distinction, they recognise that a critical part of teaching is reflecting on the effectiveness of their teaching in supporting all our students to achieve. This reflection is fostered by examining the learning demonstrated in student work. Separating the act of teaching (by the teacher) from learning (by the learner) provokes a focus on the frequent gap between what is taught and what is learned.

Research about how people learn best, and on the factors that make a difference to student learning provide a powerful foundation for the decisions that our teachers make. This evidence base assists teachers to reflect on their practice and experiences and to share ideas with colleagues. Both of these activities contribute to their professional development and improve the learning outcomes of our students.

The way that teachers go about their work is driven by the curriculum. By aligning their teaching, assessment and reporting to the intended curriculum, teachers maximise the learning of our students.

Aligning curriculum to focus on student learning

The student is at the centre of all teaching and learning. This means that, when planning, teachers start with the students and make curriculum decisions based on our students, as indicated below.

Curriculum intent

What do we want students to learn?

Pedagogy

How will we teach it so all students will learn it?

Students

Who are the students? What do they already know? How do they learn?

Assessment

How will they show what they know? How will we find out if they’ve learned what we wanted them to learn?

Reporting

How do we communicate what they have learned and how well they have learned it?

Divisions

KINDERGARTEN CURRICULUM (Jr. KG and Sr. KG.)
Reading

Our reading program is entwined with everything we do at Balsam Academy. It is not a separate learning experience, but incorporated into every activity and play situation throughout Balsam Academy's program. Using a reading readiness approach, we work toward building a foundation full of skills and thinking processes that will support children when they are ready to start decoding the symbols used in our English language. Pictures of our toys are used to introduce a 2-dimensional representation of 3-dimensional objects. Visually predictable experiences are provided with pictures, letters, and objects on matching and sequence cards. Children are engaged in visual discrimination experiences. Left to right directionality is promoted by book reading. Puppetry, bookmaking, recording children's words verbatim, cooking from large recipe charts, creating experience charts, labelling classroom furniture and using signs during play are other reading readiness experiences that also contribute to formal reading. Writing is not a separate part of reading, and we often record the children's words during teacher and child directed activities. We do print exactly as words would appear in books using upper and lowercase letters, but when we take dictation from a child, we do not correct their grammar or pronunciation. Our planned activities focuses on helping children understand the connection between reading, writing, thinking and talking.

Science

Facilitators introduce learning through investigation, to explain the scientific and natural world to our students. Through the use of items from the classroom and beyond, the children have opportunities to explore and make discoveries about themselves, their environment and how different properties, such as heat, cold, evaporation, mixing, cause changes. Most experiments have a goal, but children are encouraged to redo their explorations many times before they draw conclusions. Experimentation can be altered by other factors or different approaches, and we at Balsam Academy like to keep that in mind. Nature, environmental objects, cooking, water experiments, light experiments, human body studies, hygiene and health are some topics for units that we explore during the year.

Math

We focus on logical thinking rather than just numbers. It is not necessarily the answer that is most important, but rather the way that one arrives at the answer. Teacher-directed activities encourage the development of ordering by size, comparing similarities, matching, classifying by one or more attributes and establishing one to one correspondence. There are many concrete number experiences that encourage dialog and that support the logical thinking which leads to comprehensive abstract thinking.

Creative Arts

All children are born with the ability to invent and appreciate art. All children are born with the capacity to create and to enjoy music. Music and art are two of the few activities that engage both hemispheres of the brain at the same time.

Art

Self expression is explored through open-ended, child-centered art activities. Non-representational experiences, which eventually lead to representational creations, allow children to have successful creative encounters every time they participate. Our art projects, using both natural and manufactured materials, are often thematically based.

Music

Music is an integral part of the creative experiences provided here at Balsam Academy and it is enjoyed primarily as a self - expressive activity. Singing, listening games, dancing, movement, playing instruments, listening to records and music tapes, and making instruments are musical activities that take place throughout the year. We also use song to announce and smooth out our transitions during the day. Musical dynamics, pitch and rhythm are concepts we explore during these activities. Music from different cultures is introduced to the children throughout the year.

Environment Studies

We use both our Balsam Academy families and facilitators to explore the world's many cultures and heritages, and their similarities and differences. Our classroom is the first society away from home for most children here in the nursery school. We also step outside our school and use the community to explore the different occupational roles around us. Trips to local shops, setting up cultural fairs which are hands-on experiences for the children, reading books, listening to and telling stories, and using illustrative charts also broaden our scope of the world around us. We also explore different cultures through celebration, and create cultural connections between peoples using song, story, food, clothing, jewellery and other artefacts and family life. Parents are invited into the classroom to enrich our program by sharing their talents, professions and their cultures.

Overview of class activities

Balsam Academy's mixed-age classroom and diverse student body provide a lively and inviting atmosphere for learning from each other, as well as from our formal program. Within the classroom setting, we provide a varied and well-balanced curriculum designed to promote growth in all facets of the whole child.

CURRICULUM FOR GRADERS (1 to 10)

Balsam Academy with English as the medium of instruction follows the curriculum guidelines and syllabus laid down by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).

The School syllabus is built on a rich foundation of reading, writing, and arithmetic. That foundation is then layered with history, science, music, geography, and the arts to ensure no gaps in instruction. The time-tested curriculum is built on the principle of subject integration. Topics that lend to each other irrespective of the Subject it belongs to or caters to become imperative in the teaching learning process. This reinforced study across subject areas develops higher order thinking skills and promotes content mastery.

We combine the best classroom-tested materials, teacher-created Lesson Manuals, and proven educational methodologies all in one complete, meticulously planned curriculum. The children will be guided through each lesson with a multi-pronged approach.

Teaching Methodology in the School is:

  • Student-centric & innovative, integrating and weaving in the school's philosophy
  • Use of themes & projects to develop higher order thinking and stimulate creativity
  • Large number of co-curricular activities that provide wide and varied exposure
  • Use of modern and conventional tools and methods of teaching and learning

Subjects are not taught in isolation or in a segmented manner. The curriculum makes it possible to reinforce concepts many times in different and interesting ways. That is the reason why our children are not burdened with heavy school bags and a lot of homework. Its many advantages include availability of quality time for parents and children. The teacher becomes an interesting facilitator instead of a rigid taskmaster. At the primary school level a sincere effort is made to help children inculcate values and learn skills, which will undoubtedly enhance the quality of their lives. Instead of sermons on morality, 'Circle Time' sessions provide children opportunities to understand the importance of values and of making the right choices. They are motivated to think and speak for themselves. They learn to communicate with others and develop self-confidence. Activity based learning is always more enjoyable than rote learning. The methods of teaching are unique and innovative. It is for this reason that parents are dissuaded from “teaching” children at home. In the initial stages the emphasis is on oral language development and slowly the other skills are integrated into the curriculum. Apart from this, the child has enough time and opportunity to develop fine motor coordination facilitated by the use of their hands for pottery, drawing and craft. Attending school becomes a joyous experience while missing school is unthinkable.

The fundamental practices that define the education program are listed below:
  • Experiential, inquiry-based approach, balanced by academic rigor
  • Curriculum based on age-specific learning goals
  • Theme-based lessons
  • Project based learning
  • Continuous assessment based on observation, projects, activities, worksheets, research, presentations
  • Extended help for slow learners
  • Bi-annual semester exams and unit reviews
  • Circle Time and Special assemblies
  • Accelerated reading program
  • Integration of Technology
  • Effective teacher-student ratio
  • Student council / Leadership training
  • Emphasis on co-curricular activities
  • Mixed age/ vertical learning groups
  • Field trips, workshops, guest lectures
Language Pattern

All schools following Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) need to follow a three-language formula. English is considered as First Language.

The II language choices at Class I is Tamil. (effective from the year 2015-16 as per the directive of Tamil Nadu Government)

Languages offered:

  • Std. I and Std. II - Tamil as 2nd language (academic year 2016-17)
  • Std IV to Std X – Hindi/ Tamil as 2nd language
  • Std. IV to Std. VIII – Hindi/ Tamil as 3rd language

Important Notification:

  • Hindi is compulsory as either a 2nd language or 3rd language.
  • Those who select a particular language as 2nd language in Std IV and Std V are advised to maintain the same as 2nd language up to Std X for continuity.

Beyond Academics

Overview

The subjects listed below are highly integrated with the academic program and help to form the strongest possible foundation for children in the elementary years.

Visual Arts

The goal of the art program is to encourage expression and experimentation in the language, structure, and form of art. Basic skills are taught through colour, form, line, and design. Throughout the grades the projects grow in complexity as students’ abilities mature. Themes are drawn from nature, fantasy, environment, art history, world cultures, and the classroom curriculum. At all grade levels drawing, design, painting, ceramics, and sculpture are explored. Classes provide a balanced program of creative expression, instruction, and student interaction.

Lessons emphasize on not only the finished product, but the process as well.

Library

With its rich collection of books and state-of-the-art technological resources, the Balsam Academy library enhances and supports the curriculum.

The library program fosters a love of reading and an appreciation of children’s literature. Information on literacy skills enable students to access and utilize the library resources.

Art Enrichment

The Art Enrichment program provides an interdisciplinary connection between art and the academics. Students are encouraged to consider art and the academic subjects from a creative and innovative perspective.

The Art Enrichment program supplements the curriculum through the use of hands-on projects that correlate with language arts, social studies, math, and science. Students’ conceptual understanding of academic material is strengthened and enriched as abstract ideas are applied in a concrete manner.

Music / Drama

The music/drama program is designed to encourage students to develop an appreciation of music, drama, and the performing arts. Children in grades Kindergarten through grade five become familiar with the basic elements of music and drama and develop self-confidence and self-expression through activities such as: singing, music and drama games, dancing, and the use of rhythm and simple melodic instruments. Each year, students perform before an audience, participating in a grade level presentation.

Sports & fitness

The physical education program provides opportunities for students to develop fundamental motor skills and to engage in a variety of activities involving movement. Students learn rules and game structure, play collaboratively with others, and establish values about the importance of physical activity in their lives. The program seeks to foster a positive self-image. Students are encouraged to adopt an active, healthy lifestyle that includes frequent exercise.

kindergarten

The approach to Kindergarten at Balsam is to engage child with meaningful activities that is appropriate to the child's ability. This kindles an interest in children to explore and learn. The focus is on the healthy development on the physical body with exposure to appropriate learning materials. This makes the children feel comfortable and safe to touch, feel and experiment. The daily rhythm consists of circle time, main lesson, movements, story time and closing circle time, which builds a sense of security and predictability. Thus the child learns with an open mind, imitating the teacher, all the way through. Our objective is for learning to happen and not to be taught. The overall objective is to help children develop vocabulary, sense of movement and balance, curiosity, eye-hand co-ordination, cognitive and social skills. We recognize that healthy development unfolds in a community with healthy social relationships among parents, teachers and children.

Graders

Students engage in a wider variety of games, during which team effort and sportsmanship are stressed. They continue to play comprehensive games, during which team effort and sportsmanship skills remain central components. They are then placed on teams and learn to play the various positions involved in the sport. Students hone their skills during the study of sports and also continue to sharpen their abilities.

The physical education program expands and builds upon skills developed in them. The program strives to develop each student’s personal living skills by fostering communication, promoting cooperation and risk-taking, encouraging safety, developing initiative, nurturing trust, and promoting respect. Students are exposed to more specific skills needed to engage in various sports. The graders rotate seasonally through many sports offerings. The students are engaged in fitness programs, basketball, yoga, volleyball, throwball, kho-kho, kabaddi, track events and field events as per their interests.