LANGUAGE ARTS LITERACY PROGRAM
Kindergarten to 4th grade
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The K-4 elementary language arts program is based on a balanced literacy approach, which integrates reading, writing, speaking, listening, and viewing and is, therefore, aligned with the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. These elements are integrated through the use of the Good Habits, Great Readers program materials from Pearson Education, Inc. (2009), and Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction program materials from Pearson Education, Inc (2008).
Reading The Good Habits, Great Readers program supports a balanced and comprehensive approach to literacy. Students consistently participate in both whole class (Shared Reading) and small group (Guided Reading) instruction. Through Shared Reading lessons, students are introduced to key reading strategies and skills that help them utilize specific actions (good habits) while they read. During Guided Reading, students receive follow-up instruction targeted to specific developmental stages.
The elementary reading program is designed to foster a love of reading and to develop the skills essential to students becoming effective, lifelong readers. The program provides opportunities for learning experiences in listening and speaking, phonemic awareness, phonics, word identification, word analysis, vocabulary development, fluency, and comprehension strategies. As students read a variety of selections, they learn appropriate strategies to optimize their comprehension. These strategies include previewing and predicting, confirming predictions, using prior or background knowledge, self-questioning, adjusting reading rate, using typographic clues, visualizing, rereading, and using text features and illustrations to facilitate comprehension. As a result of students' focus on comprehension, students develop into readers who learn how to relate the text to themselves, the world, and other texts. They learn to be critical and active readers who know that reading equates with getting meaning from text.
The importance of students developing good habits for reading is emphasized in this program. Following a mini-lesson modeled by the teacher to focus students' attention to a specific text aspect or strategy, students are offered multiple opportunities for practice and application. This is accomplished through independent and partner reading. Graphic organizers, retellings, and group discussions are used to explore students' understanding of textual content and ideas. Written responses are also used to encourage student self-reflection and meta-cognition.
Pearson's Good Habits, Great Readers, Big Books, Guided Reading books, and selected trade books provide the basic materials to support the reading program K-4. Students are exposed to a variety of genres to enrich their reading experiences. Teachers also work with the media specialist in the selection and use of additional appropriate print materials and technology to support the program.
Words Their Way is a developmentally driven instructional approach providing an integrated way to teach phonics, vocabulary, and spelling to improve literacy skills. Using a systematic approach to word study, guided by an informed interpretation of spelling errors and other literacy behaviors, Words Their Way offers a teacher-directed, child-centered plan for vocabulary growth and spelling development. The main purpose of word study is to examine words in order to reveal consistencies within our written language system and to help students master the recognition, spelling, and meaning of specific words. Becoming fully literate is absolutely dependent on fast, accurate recognition of words and their meanings in texts, and fast, accurate production of words in writing so that readers and writers can focus their attention on making meaning.
As a part of balanced literacy, the writing curriculum for the district follows the model that reading and writing should be integrated. To that end, The Good Habits, Great Readers Writing component provides focused writing instruction with connections to reading strategies taught in the Good Habits, Great Readers Shared Reading lessons. The writing program relies on real literature to model writing and highlight techniques used by published authors in a workshop setting. Students are encouraged to see themselves as writers as they begin to develop the skills and knowledge required to be good writers. Through writing both fiction and nonfiction, students are introduced to the important aspects of writing. Students are guided through the writing process and deepen their understanding of the process as they continue through the program.
The writing process includes prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. Students learn their responsibilities in each of those areas. For example, when prewriting, students learn various strategies, which include graphic organizers, outlining, clustering ideas, and note taking. Students learn that drafts need revision. As students revise, they focus on specific areas that include content, organization, descriptive words, figurative language, effective beginnings and endings, and appropriate use of language. When editing, students focus on usage, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Through the use of models provided by trade books, benchmark papers, sample writing pieces, and teachers' writings, students develop awareness of the characteristics of good writing. Student progress is assessed through conferencing, journals, written self-reflections, rubrics, writing samples, benchmarks, and portfolios.
Specific types of writing in the elementary program are varied and many of them spiral through the grades, thereby fostering skill reinforcement for each type. Students at each grade level are responsible for writings in five general areas that include: narrative writing, informational writing, persuasive writing, functional writing, and writing in response to literature. The integrating of writing across the curriculum areas enables students to write for varied audiences, "publishing" works proudly on the bulletin boards and in class books to share with others.