Reading and Writing are strongly intertwined during the early years of literacy. Frequent and engaging read alouds focus on specific comprehension skills, and vocabulary acquisition. These emerging readers wrestle with the alphabetic code, phonics, and syntax in Reading Workshop as they build the foundation of a lifelong love of reading. Students learn to decode, comprehend, and compare and contrast as they read fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Small group reading allows for concentration in learning strategies and skills in genre and author studies, while partner and individual reading time allows for extended individualized instruction and personal exploration in reading. Teachers assess the growth of each student’s language competency formally three times a year, and informally on a daily basis to ensure the work is challenging and that the student is making adequate progress.
Whole class, small group and individual work continue as students mature in their reading ability and grapple with complex texts in the Middle Elementary years. Students begin to refine their abilities in writing about their reading, and in reading discussion. Students negotiate meaning with increasing independence. Complex comprehension strategies are learned and mastered as students read across a wide range of genre. Students consider large themes across multiple texts, compare and contrast characters, examine character motivations and complex plots, as well as make connections across expository texts. Students begin to support their ideas with specific evidence in the text.
In the Upper Elementary grades students begin to work in self-selected reading groups, as well as continue with independent and small group work. Discussion skills are honed as students participate in book clubs and negotiate meaning in increasingly complex text. Students examine figurative language, author’s purpose and point of view, as well as tone and mood in complex novels that often involve multiple plot lines and complicated themes. Students make connections across themes and annotate a variety of informational texts. Students support and defend their ideas with text evidence. By the end of their elementary years, students have developed a rich reading life and are confident and highly capable readers and discussants.
Our goal in English Language Arts is to create a community of sophisticated, independent, flexible and resilient readers and writers. The broad program goals for all students are:
- The development of higher-level analytical reading skills
- The development if higher level writing skills and techniques in narrative, descriptive, persuasive, creative, and expository modes
- The application of correct and appropriate standard English grammar in speaking and writing
- The development of age appropriate vocabulary
- The exploration of diverse, rich and engaging literary works, allowing students to recognize universal themes and to compare styles and ideas across the curriculum
- The development of organizational and study skills
- The use of technology to organize, write and present material
Students will have separate times for reading and writing, however, these disciplines will be closely intertwined. Our Reading and Writing core curriculum is Units of Study of Reading and Writing developed by Lucy Calkins and the Reading and Writing Project of Teachers College at Columbia University. Supplemental units will be developed by the English Language Arts faculty.
Students will read books at their level and of their choosing during studies of Character, the Power of Nonfiction, and Social Issues Book Clubs. Additionally, Grade 6 students will explore whole class novels introducing students to rich and diverse literature, as well as connecting with Social Studies and projects.
Students will begin with a unit in Personal Narrative: Crafting Powerful Life Stories, before exploring Literary Essays: From Character to Compare/Contrast. Unit 3 launches Research Based Information Writing in which students explore a topic of teen activism to make a call to action. Supplemental units include Poetry, Fiction Writing and Journalism.
Students will read books at their level and of their choosing during studies of Characterization and Author Studies, and Historical Fiction book clubs. Grade 7 students will complete a unit on Essential Research Skills for Teens. Grade 7 will also explore whole class novels with a focus on contemporary authors
Grade 7 students launch the year in Writing Realistic Fiction: Symbolism, Syntax and Truth, before analyzing craft and structure in the Writing about Reading unit. In Unit 3, The Art of Argument: Research-Based Essays, students learn to write essays that build convincing, nuanced arguments, balancing evidence and analysis to persuade readers to shift their beliefs or take action. Supplemental Units include Poetry and Persuasive Speeches.
Students will read books at their level and of their choosing during studies of Dystopian Book Clubs in which students study complexity and symbolism and allusions. In Literary Nonfiction students will learn critical skills such as identifying and tracing implicit arguments. The last unit, Critical Literacy: Unlocking Contemporary Fiction, students will deepen their comprehension and annotating skills while empowering students as democratic readers. Supplemental novels include classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird and The Outsiders.
In their first unit of study, Investigative Journalism, students learn to use sharp observations of life to write investigative articles about meaningful topics. In Unit 2, The Literary Essay: Analyzing Craft and Theme, students return to literary essays, writing arguments and counterarguments about themes in texts, supporting their positions with details of plot, character, and author’s craft. Eighth graders conclude with Unit 3, Position Papers: Research and Argument. In this unit students learn to compose principled arguments by drawing on evidence, contextualizing their positions, and addressing multiple perspectives.