The primary goal of the language arts program is to produce vital and interested readers and writers. We emphasize the selection, comprehension, and appreciation of good literature, including short stories, poetry, folktales, novels, and non-fiction selections. Children who are encouraged to communicate their thoughts in a variety of ways and who spend a great deal of their time reading and writing are much more likely to grow into literate adults who value language and use it well. Literature supports our essential themes, which broadens the impact of the themes and deepens children's conceptual understandings.
The language arts program identifies and addresses several critical and interrelated experiences: Readers' Workshop, Response to Literature,
Writers' Workshop/Write Traits, and the study of language patterns.
These critical experiences are not separate activities; in fact, they are interwoven and intertwined. Students write in response to reading and read their own writing and that of their classmates. Students are encouraged to examine writing techniques in the literature they read and apply these techniques to their own writing. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are taught during reading, writing, and language times. Often sessions begin with a short lesson, commonly called a mini-lesson. Sometimes it is directed toward a particular skill; it may also focus upon an aspect of the children's writing or a question that will stimulate thought.
Readers' Workshop is an important facet of the program in the early grades. It involves children in reading and responding to books. During Readers' Workshop children may be reading silently or aloud, in small groups, or with a buddy; they might be conferencing with a teachers or listening to recorded books. It is a time for practicing reading skills. Teachers work with students in small groups or individually to monitor skill development and comprehension and to plan strategies for continued growth. Students read selections from the classroom library, the school library, their home, or work that was published by other students. In upper grades, students participate in literature groups where students are given roles with specific responsibilities to ensure effective, generative discussions.
Response to Literature
Response to Literature is designed to utilize quality children's literature in a variety of ways in order to deepen comprehension and develop critical thinking and analysis skills. A book, story, or poem may serve as a central theme for a unit of study, or it may provide a context for teaching skills.
Writing emphasizes written expression for an audience using the Writing Workshop model. Students create stories, poetry, and compositions using self-selected topics and topics related to specific units in science and/or social studies. At times, teachers may also suggest specific topics so that students gain practice with this skill. Teacher and peer conferencing help to guide the writer through a process that includes topic selection, drafting, revision, editing, illustration, and publication. In addition, children keep notebooks and write poetry, letters, notes, and responses to literature.
Students in grade four and up use the six traits of writing to develop their understanding of the components of strong writing. Through mini lessons, students learn about the traits of idea development, organization, word choice, sentence fluency, voice and conventions. By reading and using rubrics to score sample pieces, peer conferencing, revising, and editing, students learn the importance of using each trait to effectively and successfully communicate their ideas in writing.
Word Study focuses upon the structure of our language: phonetic elements, spelling patterns, grammatical structures, and vocabulary development. The objective in teaching language patterns is three-fold:
- To provide the student with the necessary tools for efficient reading and writing
- To internalize these skills, using them as an integral part of the language arts experience
- To teach children strategies that will enable them to apply their learning
The patterns of language are taught during consistent instructional periods, as well as within the context of the students' reading and writing. Both approaches ensure that children are exposed to necessary skills.
We provide children with opportunities to write frequently beginning early in Kindergarten. We encourage them to write whatever sounds they hear and not to focus on whether the words are spelled correctly. It is much more important that children see themselves as writers. This kind of spelling is known as "invented spelling" or "best guess spelling." As time progresses, and children become readers, spelling moves from being strictly phonetic toward conventional spelling. Beginning in 1st grade and continuing through 5th grade, students gradually begin to learn and be held accountable to correctly spell the most frequently used words designated by each grade level. Words and patterns are introduced and studied each year. It is a goal that children learn to spell accurately as early as possible without compromising their love of writing.
Children learn the proper formation of manuscript letters beginning in Kindergarten using Handwriting Without Tears, and continue with this program through 3rd grade. This program provides a multi-sensory, systematic approach, which serves children very well. Our goal is to have all students efficiently produce clear, legible manuscript and cursive writing.