School Model

Community Learners

Lifelong learning drives Sycamore Community School's vision for student growth. Building community at Sycamore means partnerships between the home and school through morning meetings, publishing parties, field trips and other volunteer opportunities. Immersing students into the extensive urban, civic, and cultural opportunities that Los Angeles offers will be at the core of the school program. 

Education of the Whole Child

The Whole Child approach to learning immerses students in engaging learning environments to foster a sense of community and encourage interpersonal skills such as problem solving, goal setting, creativity, autonomy, and self-accountability. Our philosophy encourages children’s growth by responsiveness to their understandings, interests, and abilities, allowing children to deepen their innate curiosity and eagerness to discover and learn more. 5 Selves of the Whole Child: Curious Creative Caring Empathetic Confident

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

Teaching students to be global citizens who have an awareness and understanding of the wider world, is crucial for social development.  Discussing current events, explicitly teaching and discussing what prejudice and bias looks and sounds like, and providing opportunities to take action for social change will give students the space to become allies and advocates for others. Engaging in service learning opportunities in our diverse city cultivates a community of respectful and empathetic people. Visit our About Us page to read our complete DEI statement.

Reading Centric

Sycamore Community School provides a rich reading program for students, including reading workshop across grades. Students will interact with tangible texts - books, in all subjects. In addition, they will have time each day for independent reading. Stamina around sustaining their attention while reading will  be developed over time. This, in turn, will enhance students’ preparation for high school and beyond and will bring joy to their school and life experience.  Regular trips to the local library and conversations with librarians will expose students to books as research tools, a source of entertainment, and escape into other worlds, characters, stories, cultures and history. Read alouds each day in all grades will support students’ social and emotional growth as they encounter stories that involve life’s challenges, mysteries and wonders. In addition, read alouds and literature selections will be tied to core subjects.  Often, adults think that once a child begins to read that they no longer need to be read to on a regular basis.  In fact, children and young adults benefit tremendously from being read to as they can understand more complex plots and language that is read to them than what they can read to themselves.


Phonics in Reading Instruction 

Sycamore Community School takes a phonics-based approach to reading instruction in Kindergarten to Second Grade. Our program is rooted in the idea that “phonics is best taught explicitly and systematically and then practiced extensively until automatic. When word recognition becomes automatic, children can shift their attention to comprehending what they read.” Reading Rockets
In order to support this, students begin in Kindergarten learning letter shapes and names, phonemic awareness, and all major letter-sound relationships. As they progress through First Grade, they are introduced to additional sight words, spelling patterns, vowel sounds, digraphs, blends, and word endings. Phonics is then reinforced in upper grades through activities such as word origins, prefixes, and suffixes.
Developing a comprehensive reading program is at the heart of our school. Using a combination of phonics instruction and Reading & Writing Workshop allows students to be immersed in a comprehensive, robust language program


Reading and Writing Workshop

Pioneered by a leader in literacy instruction, Lucy Calkins, the Reading and Writing Workshop model is designed to engage learners by allowing them to choose literature and writing topics based on their individual interests. This pedagogy fosters a love of learning by utilizing each child’s zone of proximal development to provide the appropriate amount of challenge without frustration.

Each lesson consists of

  • Mini lesson with skill and strategy
  • Individual application of strategy
  • Mid-workshop lesson
  • Share

“The results of critically engaged reading workshop, writing workshop, and phonics workshop, and phonics work are visible in TCRWP classrooms and schools around the globe. One way that we can trace the effects of students coming of age inside of Units of Study is through the work that they do- the essays they write, the nonfiction books they create, the TedTalks they present, the book club conversations they author.” The Reading & Writing Project

Visit The Reading & Writing Project to learn more.

Cognitively Guided Instruction

Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) is a math pedagogy based on the work of Megan Franke, UCLA Center X, that allows for differentiated instruction. This student-centered approach maximizes engagement through an emphasis on exploring how to use your intuition and natural number sense to solve problems.

Visit the UCLA Mathematics Project to learn more.

Eureka Math (EngageNY)  

“Eureka Math® set a new standard for rigor, coherence, and focus in the classroom so students gain a deeper understanding of the why behind the numbers, all while making math more enjoyable to learn and teach”-

Visit Great Minds to learn more. 

Elementary (K-4) : Mystery Science

“For these critical ten years of their lives, any time a child wonders something all they can do is ask grownups: parents or other adult family members at home, and teachers at school. Most questions that children ask, grownups simply don’t know how to answer. How does a magnet stick to a fridge? Can animals get sunburn? Why do some people have different accents?” – Mystery Science

Visit Mystery Science to learn more.

Middle School (5-7): STEMscopes

“Our digital curriculum is brought to life through exploratory hands-on kits that promote inquiry and excitement as your students engage in real-world scientific connections.” – STEMscopes 

Visit STEMscopes to learn more.

Standards-Based Curriculum (K-1) 

In the Kindergarten and First grade classes, students are guided through a standards-based social studies curriculum.

Teacher Curriculum Institute (Grades 2-7)

“Students can’t help but love TCI’s hands-on lessons. Inquiry projects, debates, and experiential exercises are just some ways that students investigate and master key concepts.” – Teacher Curriculum Institute


Visit the Teacher Curriculum Institute to learn more.

Social Emotional


Practicing mindfulness in the classroom develops a student’s ability to focus on the present moment and engage in learning.

Research shows the benefit of giving students the space and tools to re-center and refocus results in a decrease of stress and anxiety. The cornerstones of mindfulness educate students on how to cope with daily fluctuations in life and build resilience by embracing and learning from challenges.

Learn more in the Introduction of Daniel Rechtschaffen’s The Way of Mindful Education: Cultivating Well-Being in Teachers and Students.

Growth Mindset 

A growth mindset is an essential skill for success. Having a growth mindset is defined by the understanding that one’s ability fluctuates as a result of effort, perseverance, and practice. Carol Dweck’s research on the Growth Mindset approach to learning explains that how you view yourself determines your outcome. Sycamore Community School integrates growth mindset practices and activities into each learning domain to heighten our student’s awareness around their potential and build a higher self-worth.

“These neuroscientific discoveries have shown us that we can increase our neural growth by the actions we take, such as using good strategies, asking questions, practicing, and following good nutrition and sleep habits.” – Mindset Works


Visit Mindset Works to learn more.

Responsive Classroom is a framework of social and emotional practices designed to build a strong and cohesive classroom community. The practices are based on partnerships, which allow students to get to know and trust each other as people, learners, teachers, and coaches.
In a responsive classroom, students feel valued because of the rapport they build with their peers and teachers through morning meetings, closing circles, and consistent feedback. In partnership with students, the teacher establishes a classroom culture where students are intrinsically motivated.  
Four Key Domains of Responsive Classroom
    •    Engaging Academics
    •    Positive Community
    •    Effective Management
    •    Developmentally Responsive Classroom
“We believe students learn best and thrive in school and classroom environments that are responsible to their academics, social, and emotional strengths and needs.”  – Center for Responsive Schools

Visit the Center for Responsive Schools to learn more.

STAR Assessment