Lower School is a time of remarkable change in a child’s academic, emotional an social life. The language arts curriculum addresses the four strands of language development: listening, speaking, reading, and writing – in a variety of ways.
Phonics and Spelling
Kinder to third graders learn to read and spell through Fundations, a multisensory phonics, spelling and handwriting program that makes learning to read fun while laying the groundwork for life-long literacy. Students learn how to recognize, manipulate and decode simple and complex sounds, then words, then how words fit into sentences. Students learn the spelling rules and concepts that are the basis of the English language. They learn why words are spelled the way they are, instead of memorizing lists of words. (Students will still memorize those trick words that don’t follow the rules.
Classrooms libraries include a wide range of fiction and non- fiction; and classes visit the school library where Mrs. Bishop reads to children and helps them select books to read independently. An essential component of a strong Language Arts program involves daily reading at home. A parent reading to a child supports a love of reading; a child reading aloud to a parent builds fluency. Community and love of reading is also supported through our Reading Buddies program, in which students of different ages come together once a week to read and write together.
In addition to rich classroom libraries, kindergarten to second grade teachers make use of Fountas and Pinnel leveled readers. Fountas and Pinnell leveled readers are rooted in the understanding that when a text poses enough challenge, but not too much, the child has opportunities with effective, explicit teaching to build his or her network of effective problem solving actions. With daily teaching, the teacher helps the child climb the ladder of text difficulty with success.
The Units of Study Writing Program, developed by Lucy Calkins at Columbia Teachers College, provides the foundation of the writing program.
The essential aspects of the program are that
- Writing needs to be taught with explicit instruction.
- Children deserve to write for real, to write the kinds of texts that they see in the world
- Children need to be immersed in a listening and storytelling culture where their voices are valued and heard.
- Children need explicit instruction in spelling and phonemic awareness. K to Grade 3 students receive daily training in phonological awareness, phonics and word study, fluency, spelling, and handwriting based on the Wilson Fundations program. There is a scope and sequence for spelling and grammar instruction from first to eighth grade.
- Writers read! For children to write well, they need opportunities to read and to hear texts read and to read as insiders, studying what other authors have done that they too could try.
- Children need clear goals and feedback.
In the Units of Study program, each grade level includes four six week units of writing with some combination of the following: narrative, opinion/persuasive/ argument, and informational. Instruction builds on itself from one year to the next. Teaching follows the gradual release of responsibility model of teaching. Students can first learn from a demonstration, accompanied by explicit teaching, then from guided practice in which the amount of scaffolding they receive lessens over time.