Language Arts


Reading

Our reading instruction creates a balance of the following skills that all effective readers use:

  • Phonemic Awareness: The ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words.

·         Alphabetic Principle: The ability to associate sounds with letters and use these sounds to form words (phonics).

  • Accuracy & Fluency with Text: The effortless, automatic ability to read words in connected text. Fluency includes rate, expression and phrasing.

·         Vocabulary: The ability to understand (receptive) and use (expressive) words to acquire and convey meaning.

·         Comprehension: The complex cognitive process involving the intentional interaction between reader and text to convey meaning which includes predicting, using prior knowledge, determining importance, evoking images, inferring, monitoring meaning and asking questions.

Instead of focusing on skills in isolation, we approach our instruction in a whole-part-whole approach. We first focus on a meaningful whole (a story, for example). Then we explicitly teach the skills but in a way that is connected and necessary to doing and understanding an authentic text or task.  We focus on developing positive attitudes about reading, strong understandings about reading and effective reading behaviors.

 

Students are exposed to a variety of genres. At the intermediate level, students learn to identify and read various genres of books.We will be working with students as they develop their writing skills. We will look at where students are at in the developmental writing continuum and use demonstrations, visual representations, conferences, writing, and sharing to develop effective writing skills. We will use the writing process which will include writing in a variety of genres for a wide array of audiences. We will focus on developing ideas, using creative and accurate word choice, creating a flow of language, organizing and presenting of text, using correct conventions (capitalization, punctuation and spelling) and developing the voice of an author. We will incorporate writing into all content areas. Some of our learners will be emergent writers who use mainly pictures to communicate meaning. Others will be writing long stories with many words. We will use small group instruction and one-on-one conferencing to set individual goals for each writer. Each child will be encouraged to develop as a writer – with the focus on writing for genuine purposes and authentic audiences.

Writing

We work with students as they develop their writing skills. We look at where students are at in the developmental writing continuum and use demonstrations, visual representations, conferences, writing, and sharing to develop effective writing skills. We will use the writing process which will include writing in a variety of genres for a wide array of audiences. We  focus on developing ideas, using creative and accurate word choice, creating a flow of language, organizing and presenting of text, using correct conventions (capitalization, punctuation and spelling) and developing the voice of an author.  We incorporate writing into all content areas. Some of our learners are emergent writers who use mainly pictures to communicate meaning. Others are writing long stories with many words. We use  small group instruction and one-on-one conferencing to set individual goals for each writer. Each child is encouraged to develop as a writer – with the focus on writing for genuine purposes and authentic audiences. For writing instruction, our teachers utilize curriculum guides developed by David Matteson  & Associates and Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s Units of Study.

Spelling – Word Work

Each child has an individual spelling list based on their developmental stage as a speller (Words Their Way, 2008), approximations found in the child’s writin and frequently used words. Students receive explicit instruction on word patterns in the classroom. We dedicate class time to activities that provide time for practice and we will also provide at-home activities where each child can practice reading, writing and organizing his/her spelling words.  Based on where students are at developmentally and knowing what word features they have studied enable us to set reasonable expectations for spelling accuracy in their writing. Gradually, students are held more and more accountable for conventional spelling. Because the sequence of spelling phonics instruction is cumulative and linear from easier features such as individual letter sounds to harder features such as the suffixes –tion, sion- and –cian, there are always some features that have not yet been taught/learned. Thus, children will be encouraged to invent a spelling for what they do not yet know. Children are also introduced to resources such as subject specific word walls and personal word banks.

Handwriting

We use Handwriting without Tears (HWT) materials. This program is successful because it follows a developmental teaching sequence. We teach easy letters first, beginning with capitals and then teaching letters in groups of similar stroke sequence. When students master easier skills, they are better prepared to learn more difficult groups—those prone to reversals or having diagonal lines. As a result, children gain mastery and confidence more quickly and can focus on the content of their work rather than the mechanics of letter formation. The HWT teaching order results in writing that is fluid, legible, and automatic – plus it’s fun! We provide in class instruction and practice time, and we also provide practice activities to use at home when necessary.

Click here to get more information about Handwriting without Tears.