Language & Literacy
Our language arts curriculum is based on research about literacy acquisition and reflects our child-centered, developmental philosophy of teaching and learning, as well as the best resources and instructional practices. From the youngest to the oldest end of the program, our children are immersed in a language-rich environment where the motivation to read, write and express oneself is powerful, and we take seriously the work of ensuring that all children are able to seize this power and use it for authentic purposes as speakers, listeners, readers, writers, story-tellers and researchers. Our literacy program is built around a framework of four pillars, which are integrated into the daily program in each classroom:
- Instructional and Guided Reading: In all classrooms, reading literature aloud is part of the daily experience – whether as a whole class, in small reading groups, or with a partner, there is an emphasis on learning the elements of print and written language. This part of the literacy curriculum emphasizes phonemic awareness, reading skills and strategies, elements of literature, and comprehension of fiction and nonfiction texts.
- Independent and Self-Selected Reading: In every classroom, every day, you will see children deeply immersed in reading material of their own choosing; they are encouraged to explore their interests and answer their own questions. This part of our literacy curriculum emphasizes engagement, choice and a love of literature. Our excellent library plays an important role. A rich array of fiction and non-fiction suitable for every age allows children to have an almost limitless selection.
- Word Study: As the building blocks of language, words are a basic and important foundation of our literacy instruction. In every classroom, words are celebrated, and instruction is dedicated to sound-letter correspondence, invented to conventional spelling, vocabulary and grammar.
- Writing and Handwriting: From the earliest stage children understand the power of the written word. From the lists, signs, surveys and dictated stories they write as four and five-year-olds, to the published newspaper and research projects of the oldest students, children are encouraged and guided to develop their authentic voice and all the skills necessary to express themselves articulately and purposefully. In this part of our literacy program, we emphasize all written skills including printing, cursive, keyboarding, sentence structure, punctuation, and the construction of paragraphs, essays and stories.
In the language-rich environments of our youngest classrooms, children grow their capacity for verbal expression, listening and early literacy skills as they experience the books, songs, games, circle times and activities that incorporate these language skills into each day. They work with letters, print and symbolic representations in a natural and playful setting. Phonological awareness – the essential component of later reading ability – is developed and practiced through word play, rhyming, singing, reading the morning message, making lists, learning letters, sounds and syllables. Play – whether in the dramatic area, outside spaces, sensory table or block area – allows for rich social interactions for literacy to emerge, and children begin to use written language in meaningful ways such as writing their name, labeling pictures, making signs and charts, writing simple books, stories and poems individually or as a class. Children dictate original stories to adults who write for them because the desire to communicate one’s good ideas should not have to wait for full writing fluency. Children may publish their own writing, which is catalogued into the library. The Handwriting Without Tears curriculum is used to help build foundational writing skills like pencil grip and letter formation.
In primary classrooms children are putting together all the skills to learn to read, and to do this with increasing fluency and independence. Children develop solid phonological awareness – the ability to identify discrete sounds within words – through authentic reading and writing activities and lessons. Leveled and sequential reading books support the progress from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn. Comprehension, spelling, handwriting and vocabulary are also key elements. They participate as readers and writers in a motivating and high-interest context – reading in groups, selecting books to read independently, journaling, writing stories and plays, researching and writing about topics of interest, generating lists of high frequency words, and learning to spell and punctuate correctly. Children may publish their own writing, which is catalogued into the library. Handwriting skills and habits are also taught and put into practice using the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum. A love of literature is further built into the daily experience with the school library and librarian as an important resource.
At the intermediate level we emphasize the development of the independent and fluent reader and writer, balancing choice and personal interest with exposure to new genres and styles. Listening and speaking skills are also emphasized as students practice new ways to participate in discussions, to present their work and to teach their peers. Journal entries, reading group discussions, book reviews and book/author projects challenge readers to be part of a more public discourse about reading. Guided reading and read-alouds allow the whole class to share literature, explore non-fiction topics and practice various strategies related to reading and comprehension. These strategies challenge them to analyze, compare, contrast and connect with the text in ways that prepare them for middle school. As writers, students are becoming more fluent, expressive and independent as they learn to write well-crafted paragraphs and essays. The features of good writing are modeled and taught, while also developing stamina and patience for the editing and revision process. Students write for authentic purposes and audiences as much as possible. Word study and vocabulary building take place through words discovered in context, as well as through formal instruction in spelling patterns, word roots, prefixes and suffixes. Keyboarding and cursive are taught.