The goal of our language arts program is to help our students become skilled, lifelong readers and writers, critical thinkers, and engaging public speakers. We use the Reading and Writing Workshop approach to ensure that our students gain the necessary skills and knowledge in phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, writing craft and mechanics, as well as spelling. There is also a strong emphasis on oral language development and public speaking in all grades.
In Lower School, the Language Arts program employs a balanced literacy approach, encompassing phonics and phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and oral language skills, as well as writing craft and mechanics. The classrooms use the Reading and Writing Workshop structures for direct instruction and to allow students to engage in inquiry-based and small group collaborative learning, as they prepare students for independent application of new skills.
The Reading Workshop accommodates emergent through advanced readers using minilessons and instructional read-aloud geared to whole group, as well as small group Guided Reading and literature circles and individual conferences during independent reading. Emergent and beginning readers receive systematic and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics. All students receive direct instruction in reading comprehension, accuracy, fluency, and expanded vocabulary, while reading at their individual instructional level. Throughout their time in Lower School, students transition from learning to read to reading to learn.
The Writing Workshop allows for the same level of individualization as the Reading Workshop, while providing students with the opportunity to experiment with narrative, expository, and argument/opinion writing. Whole group minilessons focus on instruction in the writing process, genre, craft, and mechanics, while small group and individual conferences hone in on each student’s areas for growth. Classroom and schoolwide publications showcase student work.
The Language Arts program also nurtures oral language development, enabling students to become effective and confident communicators. Students develop their oral language skills through Sharing at Morning Meeting, Reader’s Theatre, class plays, poetry readings at a local coffeehouse, Author’s Teas, presentations on the iPad, and formal speeches.
The Middle School Language Arts program builds on the foundation and understanding developed in the Lower School program. The overarching goal of the curriculum is supporting students as they work to become critical thinkers and effective communicators. The Middle School Language Arts curriculum is anchored in developing the thinking and communication skills that students will need in order to tackle any text or genre they encounter as they move forward in high school. The Reading and Writing Workshop models continue into middle school where the focus lies in the 6+1 Traits of Writing and analytical reading strategies. These traits and strategies are applied to a variety of genre thereby empowering our students to think critically and communicate powerfully in multiple modalities.
The Middle School Reading Workshop begins by immersing students in high quality examples of published work in the genre of study. Analyzing these professional texts through scaffolded instruction develops students’ ability to make inferences and connections, ask high level questions, monitor their own understanding of vocabulary and determine the ideas that are important to the larger themes in a wide variety of genres. Through an inquiry based approach students uncover the attributes of the genre being explored. Each reading workshop unit offers students the opportunity to work with texts at a variety of reading levels to ensure that individual student needs are not only met, but appropriately challenged as they continue to become engaged and insightful readers. Our independent reading program, based in student choice, allows students to develop as lifelong readers. This program is paired with teacher guidance for finding page-turners for every reader.
The Writing Workshop in the Middle School provides an opportunity for students to develop their craft in the genre of narrative, expository, and argument/opinion writing. Middle School students build upon prior knowledge to write increasingly sophisticated pieces in each of these major genres. In continuation with the individualized approach, students identify topics that are important to them and apply strategies learned in minilessons and 1-on-1 writing conferences, in order to create a piece that has a larger significance. Through minilessons teachers model the writing process and provide direct instruction in writing mechanics, grammar, word choice, and other aspects of writing craft.
We believe that a person’s ability to communicate powerfully through speech is equally as important as his or her written communication skills. To that end, ACDS has developed a robust oral communication curriculum that strengthens students’ public speaking skills. In the Middle School, students explore techniques that speakers use to communicate so that others will listen and understand the message. Middle School students understand how to utilize visual supports to direct audience attention and aid memory, as well as consider the adjustments needed in response to cues from the audience. Direct instruction on the attributes of strong oral communication leads to an understanding that is applied in a variety of public speaking opportunities ranging from class discussion, informal presentations, and debates. In addition, students in grades 5-8 participate in the Speeches & Sweets annual performance of original speeches in front of an audience of parents, teachers, and peers.