We have six dedicated Language Arts Teacher in grades three through eight; our self-contained Pre-Kindergarten through grades two teachers are also a part of our literacy program. Teachers participate in professional development sessions that focus on the integration of the Common Core ELA standards, assessment data, and strategies to produce great readers and writers.
Through the use of our various genre studies, students obtain the opportunity to acquire the necessary critical thinking abilities, knowledge, and skills to achieve their academic goals and become successful members of their community. Through a balanced literacy approach based on the cognitive apprenticeship instructional model, teachers demonstrate, guide and assist their students until they are able to independently complete the task.
The objectives of the literacy program are recursive, in that skills are taught and reinforced across the grades, allowing the students numerous opportunities to master the skills presented. As we move towards full implementation of the common core standards, the elementary grades use Core Knowledge to address the standards of the curriculum. The middle school grades use Expeditionary Learning.
Balanced literacy is a comprehensive framework for reading and writing that allows students to learn through activities that provide differing levels of teacher support. Teachers scaffold their support by gradually reducing the amount of support they provide with each of the reading and writing activities. Throughout the reading and writing components, word study is reinforces.
Within the reading component, read-alouds provide full teacher support to students, providing them with an example of fluent reading, assistance with new vocabulary, and think-alouds that model the use of reading comprehension strategies. Shared reading puts some of the responsibility for reading on the students as they follow along in their own texts, but still provides the support of the teacher who is modeling how to read a particular text. Guided reading allows students to read books that are still slightly challenging for them by providing teacher support. This support helps children to acquire the skills and strategies that are necessary for the student to read the book independently. Independent reading is the activity that provides the least amount of support from the teacher since the students have the skills and strategies to successfully read the text.
Within the writing component, teachers provide full support to their students through modeled writing activities. Modeled writing serves as an exemplar for students to emulate. With shared writing, teachers incorporate student input into the writing that is being created. The teacher still provides a strong level of support as students develop the message of the writing. Guided or interactive writing further reduces the level of teacher support so that students now assume a higher level of responsibility for the text that is being created. Finally, independent writing allows students to assume full control of the writing this is where students have the ability to allow their creativity to shine.
By providing students with strong models for reading and writing, as well as scaffolding the strategies necessary for independence, students become competent readers and writers.