Literacy education is the foundation of our efforts in elementary school. It is essential that students engage in literacy practices that balance the analytical blending and segmenting of graphemes and phonemes with the imaginative exploration of words.
Our reading program begins with the use of the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment to determine both the instructional and independent reading levels of each student. Reading programs that offer a one-size-fits-all approach often miss the majority of students. For example, studies have shown through benchmark assessments in grades 1-5, that an average of 29% of students scored below expectation, 37.75% at expectations, and 66.75% exceeding expectations. Using this information, we would be missing a good majority of our students if we used a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, we place our students into guided reading groups based on their academic needs.
In primary grades (K-2), students receive direct instruction in vocabulary, phonics, phonemic awareness, sight words and writing. Teachers are modeling prosodic reading during interactive read aloud. Students also have the opportunity each day to read books that they select for themselves during independent reading and to read books on their instructional reading level during guided reading groups. Students fluency and automaticity is regularly monitored. Writing is also an important part of literacy instruction at this age because of the reciprocity to reading. Students write in response to reading, creatively and all of our students write weekly letters home to document their learning for that week in a friendly letter format to their families and then families respond back with a letter that is read by students on Monday morning. Not only is it great writing practice, it is a keepsake for students to document their year in their own writing and to see the progress from beginning to end of the year.
In intermediate grades (3-5), students engage in multiple novel studies during the school year. Each novel study incorporates projects and experiential learning opportunities. Vocabulary study continues and expands at this age. As students transition out of phonics instruction, they begin their study of Latin. Writing becomes more technical and developed; however, letters home continue to document the year’s learning.