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Elementary Curriculum Renewal 2008
English Language Arts

 English Language Arts In the Elementary Schools

Communication is fundamentally social and one of the central processes students must learn is decentereing – moving beyond their egocentrism to consider the needs and responses of others. - Andrasick, 1990  
                  
BALANCED LITERACY APPROACH IN THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS
 

“The greatest thing to be gained from the reading of books is
the desire to truly communicate with one’s fellow man…”   ~  Henry Miller

 
At the heart of our balanced literacy program is a rich learning environment in which initiative, thoughtfulness, curiosity, resourcefulness, perseverance and imagination are nurtured and celebrated.  Children become avid and competent readers and writers as they learn to live richly literate lives by reading and writing purposefully, rigorously, and joyfully.

Classrooms are places in which students make meaning and bond as a community of readers and writers.  In these settings, no one teaching method is likely to be the most effective for all children.  Rather, teachers bring into play a variety of good teaching strategies to serve the diversity of all learners.  There is an emphasis on comprehension, which is the goal of all reading.
  • Focused instruction and independent work are valued.
  • Children select texts and topics they are interested in reading and writing about. 
  • There is a growing respect for all students’ reading and writing identities.
  • There is access to a classroom library that reflects the interests of the children. 
  • There is a nonjudgmental atmosphere in which students feel safe to take risks and support one another as respectful members of a learning community.
  • Children are talking to each other about their reading or writing.
  • Teachers read aloud every day, several times a day, for a variety of purposes.
  • Students respond to literature orally and in writing.
  • Reading instruction includes opportunities for independent reading, partnership reading, guided reading and other small group instruction, conferencing, book talks, and book clubs.
  • Shared reading is part of everyday instruction where teachers and students practice reading skills and strategies.
  • Students engage in independent reading of “just-right” books every day.
  • Writing is instructed as a process; students choose topics and write in different forms; they draft, revise, edit, and publish on a regular basis.
  • Spelling and phonics principles are taught within the context of reading, writing, listening and speaking.
EMPHASIS ON COMPREHENSION
 

Monitoring for Meaning
 
When we monitor for meaning we are checking to make sure that our reading makes sense.  Readers who do not monitor may not have an idea of what has happened in the story or text.
  • Skilled readers pause, consider the meanings in text, and reflect on their understandings.
  • Skilled readers read past an unclear portion and reread part or all of the text when meaning breaks down. 

Drawing Inferences

  • Skilled readers use both what they know and what they take from the text to draw conclusions and construct meaning.
  • Skilled readers know when and how to use text, along with their own knowledge, to seek answers to questions.
Predicting
  • Skilled readers get hunches about the stories they read.  They wonder what will happen next, and they make and change their predictions as more information is revealed.
Creating Sensory Images
  • Skilled readers ask -  How does the story sound?
  • Skilled readers ask -  How does the story make me feel?
  • Skilled readers ask - What does the story make me think about?
  • Skilled readers create visual and auditory sensory images
  • to make emotional connections to characters, situations and storylines.
Understanding Story Elements
  • Skilled readers understand, discuss and write about elements of a story, including plot (problem/solution), characters, setting, movement of time, and change.
Becoming Immersed in Text
  • Skilled readers ask themselves what the story is all about.
  • Skilled readers read with a skeptical, critiquing eye.
  • Skilled readers connect the text to their own lives (text-to -self), to other books (text-to-text), and to the world at large (text-to-world)
  • Skilled readers build an overall interpretation of the text.
  • Skilled readers want to read more.
My Book
by David. H
 
I did it!
I did it!
Come and look
At what I’ve done!
I read a book!

When someone wrote it
Long ago
For me to read,
How did he know
That this was the book
I’d take from the shelf
And lie on the floor
And read by myself?

I really read it!
Just like that!
Word by word,
From first to last!
I’m sleeping with
This book in bed,
This first FIRST book
I’ve ever read.
 
                     

INSTRUCTIONAL CONTEXTS FOR READING
 

The effectiveness of teaching in a balanced literacy framework lies in the learning contexts which are created when the teacher provides information to students, models processes, gives clear and concise directions, and provides multiple opportunities for students to apply what they have learned. 

Interactive Read Aloud
 

“When we read aloud to children, we can mentor them on the thinking processes that are common among proficient readers. The read-aloud gives us opportunities to work with youngsters as apprentices, demonstrating the tools of thoughtful, skilled readers and inviting children to try these out.”
~ Lucy Calkins
 

When teachers read aloud to children, teachers do the print work, the phrasing, and the punctuating for children.  They decide who is talking to whom and what the intonation will be, so that children’s minds are more able to anticipate, infer, connect, question, and monitor for sense. This modeling lays the foundation for children to know what to do when they read text.

Shared Reading
In shared reading, students practice reading strategies with the support of the classroom community or their peers in a small group setting. 

Guided Reading
Teachers work with small groups of students to help them read a variety of increasingly challenging texts with understanding and fluency. The goal of guided reading is to prepare students to apply reading strategies with independence and success.

Independent Reading
Readers have opportunities to practice and apply the specific skills and strategies which have been introduced in other instructional contexts. Students choose “just-right” books from their classroom libraries which contain a wide variety of genres. The goals of independent reading are numerous:
  • Pride in one’s emerging abilities as a reader.
  • Trust that reading will be enjoyable.
  • Fluency as a reader and ability to read for longer periods of time.
  • Relating personally with books.
  • Ability to manage one’s reading life, remembering to resume reading books one intends to finish, remembering to have a book nearby at all times.
  • Appreciation for reading as a social activity.
  • Identification with particular authors and genres.
  • Sense of “connectivity” between texts.
  • Critical thinking during reading.
  • Appreciation for and interest in the author’s craft.
  • Ability to linger thoughtfully with some texts.
  • Willingness to engage with longer and more difficult texts.

  

Independent Reading and Classroom Libraries

"The man who does not read books has no advantage over the man who can't read them."  ~Mark Twain

We are proud of our expanding and thriving classroom libraries, which are the centerpiece of reading instruction in the elementary schools. These classroom trade book collections are valuable tools for developing readng competencies. Equally important, they are vehicles which drive children's desire to read.     

INSTRUCTIONAL CONTEXTS FOR WRITING

Modeled Writing
Teacher and students collaborate to compose a text. The teacher acts as a scribe to accomplish these objectives:

  • Develop understanding print conventions.
  • Develop writing strategies.
  • Encourage planning before writing.
  • Support reading development.
  • Provide a model for a variety of writing styles.
  • Model the connection among and between sounds, letters, and words.
  • Produce texts that students can read independently.
  • Promote communication for clarity and purpose.
  • Develop active listening and accountable talk.


Interactive Writing
Teacher and students cooperatively compose and record texts for these purposes:

  • Create opportunities to apply and reinforce writing skills which have been instructed.
  • Increase spelling knowledge.
  • Produce written language resources for the classroom.


Independent Writing
Students write independently to develop in these areas:

  • Generate, develop and organize text.
  • Writing for varied purposes.
  • Reading development.
  • Independent use of writing strategies throughout the process..
  • Use mistakes as learning opportunities.
  • Increase stamina and independence.     
INSTRUCTIONAL CONTEXTS FOR WORD STUDY

In addition to the word work which is embedded in all areas of a balanced literacy framework, there is a daily focus on principles about words, letters, sounds and how they all work together. Understandings, strategies and skills are instructed by the teacher and practiced by the students.

STUDENTS AS ACTIVE PARTNERS IN ASSESSMENT

Students become active partners in assessment. As they reflect on their learning journey at regular intervals, students examine their work, think about what they do well, and set new performance goals for themselves.

  • What did I learn today?  What did I do well?       
  • What am I confused about?   What help do I need?
  • What do I want to know more about?
  • What will I work on next time?

Rochelle DeMuccio, Coordinator Elementary English Language Arts and Reading

 

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