English Language Arts (ELA) is the backbone of any exemplary school. At King-Murphy Elementary the development of reading, writing, word study, vocabulary, spelling, grammar and communication skills (speaking and listening) is a driving force in all other content areas.
This semester King Murphy is exploring and piloting a research-based English Language Arts Curriculum grounded in the philosophy of experiential learning. Expeditionary Learning (EL) curriculum is a structured, experienced based learning structure.
EL Education’s curriculum was created to support students to build skills and content knowledge, to meet college- and career-ready standards, and, at the same time, to become more confident and collaborative learners. EL is a curriculum that is comprehensive, that provides everything you needed to learn ELA standards. EL engages students in meaningful content; that helps students become strong learners and people; that empowers them to create high-quality work that matters; and that is compelling, engaging, and joyful.
To learn more about Expeditionary Learning, please go to https://eleducation.org/.
Journeys (Harcourt/Houghton Mifflin) - This program utilizes Research-based, systematic instruction, which focuses on “5 Big Ideas in Reading” - phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension (National Reading Panel, 2000). Journeys is powerful in that it was developed as a
balanced literacy approach meaning there is a gradual release of responsibility to include whole group (modeling), small group (guided practice), and independent reading and writing. This includes extensive use of the Readers Workshop approach by Irene Fountas, which also relates to other programs currently in use such as Units of Study (Lucy Calkins).
To build phonemic awareness and phonics, we use explicit instruction and phonemic awareness is taught through the use of oral language, songs, rhymes based on principles of language and concepts of print, while integrated with spelling and writing. Each lesson is differentiated to meet students’ needs and can adapt with strategic and intensive intervention as needed.
In regards to fluency, our teachers incorporate instruction to target the following areas:
- Accuracy in word recognition
- Expression and intonation
- Natural phrasing
- Pausing and attending to punctuation
- Reading rate and stress
Vocabulary can often be overlooked but through Journeys teachers at King-Murphy leverage the power of Word Study (developed by Shane Templeton, author of Words Their Way), which is infused throughout whole group and small group reading instruction and includes word study, phonics, and spelling.
Comprehension is built through strategic instruction that includes the stop and think strategy, questioning, summarizing, inferring, identifying story elements, connections, predictions, collaborative grouping, Turn and Talk - because according to Irene Fountas, “Talking is Thinking – and we need to get students to think!” Teachers also employ open ended activities with multimodal opportunities to demonstrate understanding.
Lucy Calkins Units of Study for Reading and Writing - The following reading and writing instructional strategies are taken, primarily, from the Units of Study for Reading and Writing authored by Lucy Calkins and the Teacher's College at the Columbia University.
Reading and Writing Workshop Components
Mini-lesson: The teacher leads a short (10-15 minute) whole group lesson focusing on a topic or skill most students need support on or are not familiar with. For example in reading it might be around comprehension, decoding, or text-features while in writing it could be around the writer’s process, the qualities of good writing, or editing skills.
Independent Work: As students read silently, they are encouraged to stop and write stickies to share their thinking and practice different reading skills such as envisioning, predicting, inferring, thinking, or connecting. In writing, students are writing for sustained time about topics of their choice. They are drafting, planning, rereading, revising, proofreading, and talking with other writers about their pieces — doing the real work of writing.
Conferences and Small Group Instruction: As students read silently, the teacher is actively meeting with individual students for several minutes to practice fluency and reading comprehension strategies. In writing, as the students are writing independently, the workshop teacher is moving about the room, taking a couple minutes at a time to check in with students as they write.
These moments are opportunities to differentiate instruction by working one-on-one with a student or small groups. They are also chances to gather informal assessments of students’ progress. Based on these assessments, a teacher can plan what to teach in a future minilesson. Or they can pull a small group together to address a common area of need.
Share Time and Closure: End the reading workshop time with a whole-class conversation. The focus for these conversations should be to share a skill or strategy, something students learned as readers, or one of many conversations about being a reader and the reading community in the classroom. In writing, this is a special time when writers can share their writing with the whole class. It might be a completed piece. It might be a draft that the student wants help problem-solving. It’s a time when students learn to give and receive responses to one another’s writing in a public setting.