Reading and Language Arts
The reading and language arts program inspires a love of literature and writing, and a respect for the power of words. Building strong reading, writing, and speaking skills is central to Tilden’s goal of developing knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and confident communicators.
Students acquire skills in:
- sight word recognition
- literal and critical comprehension
- vocabulary building
- All students work at their own reading level, with continuity and close oversight provided by our lead reading teacher.
- Our Word Card sight vocabulary and Sound Card programs promote independence in reading new words and regular review of rules syllabification and vowel sounds.
- Thursday Story Writing brings Kindergarten through fourth-grade students together to discuss and write for an extended period of time on a topic selected to help students explore their personal experiences and voice.
Phonemic awareness, letter recognition, sight vocabulary, spelling, reading, and writing are developed through themed unit writing projects, handwriting workbooks, songs, movement activities, games, and discussions.
Reading and phonics work draws elements from:
- Letterland (a character-based phonics program developed by Lyn Wendon
- Harcourt Brace Reading (an program with likable characters and a controlled vocabulary)
- National Geographics Young Explores monthly magazine
- Weekly Readers (Scholastic student series)
- a rich variety of additional reading resources
Writing is a component of all kindergarten curriculum areas. Writing is introduced through the program Handwriting Without Tears®. This foundation set, the Kindergarteners join the Thursday story writing program, with stories of one or two sentences, using a mix of inventive and conventional spelling. Kindergarten students expand their skills with writing focused on themes under investigation in the K classroom. The emphasis is on content and idea building.
Developing oral speaking skills, through oral presentation, is a central component of the Kindergarten curriculum. We take opportunities throughout all areas of the K curriculum to encourage and boost the student’s voice, posture, delivery, and effective content. Students build confidence through increasingly complex oral presentations designed to stretch them from sharing about themselves to presenting acquired information to a large audience.
The objectives of the first-grade reading and language arts programs are to assist children in achieving reading fluency at grade level or above, to support students in developing confidence in their reading and communication skills, and to provide a rich environment of language experiences to enhance each child’s literacy development. Students normally enter first grade reading at several different levels. Instruction begins at each student’s level with a variety of materials and methods used to reinforce and build upon skills developed in the Kindergarten year. Children may read in small instructional groups, individually with a teacher, or with a student partner, depending upon which method best suits the material to be read and each student’s instructional needs. Reading progress is frequently assessed, and adjustments are made as needed.
The Harcourt Brace Reading Program develops word recognition, comprehension, and fluency in a structured and sequential approach. We supplement this program with a variety of other reading materials, such as Weekly Reader and National Geographic Young Explorer magazines, classroom collections of easy readers, chapter books, and books the students check out weekly from our library. The Letterland phonics program provides a strong foundation in phonics, with follow-up instruction in phonics workbooks designed to reinforce skills.
Students learn proper letter formation and practice printing daily to develop legible handwriting.
First-grade students have many opportunities to develop writing skills through directed Thursday Story Writing and informal classroom journal writing. With their first Thursday story, students begin making a personal dictionary of words they have used in their writing. As the year progresses, they use this resource and begin to develop basic dictionary and spelling skills. Children write in their classroom journals several times a week, using inventive spelling and phonics skills to sound out words. As they become more experienced writers, students begin naturally to transition from inventive spelling to conventional spelling, and complete much of their writing independently.
The language arts are integrated throughout the curriculum with class discussions, dramatizations, poetry, verbal presentations, classroom journal writing, and Thursday Story Writing. Each day the children listen to a story read by a teacher, and are introduced to language patterns, vocabulary, rhyme, poetry, imagery, etc. Some of these poems and stories lend themselves to follow-up dramatizations, artwork, and related projects.
Second and Third Grades
Phonics: In addition to the first-grade program skills, second- and third-graders review vowel sounds, diphthongs, “r” controlled vowels and vowel rules, such as the silent “e” rule, the double vowels rule, etc. In addition, the syllabification of words for ease of sounding out new words is emphasized. They learn basic rules for breaking words:
- between compound words, and between roots and endings
- between two consonants, like and different (vc/cv)
- before the consonant, if there is only one (v/cv), or after, if that doesn’t unlock the word. (vc/v)
Weekly review of the rule that the vowel is short if it is followed by a consonant, long if it’s not, solidifies sounding accuracy and speeds up that CLICK of recognition, as the word patterns and predictability of vowel sounds become automatic. Humorous rhymes and actions provide interesting ways to spice up what could be rather dull. Teaching phonics and sounding strategies enables children to be independent readers.
Reading Comprehension: Second-grade students use Macmillan Literature-Based Reading Activities to help spark discussions on setting, plot, character, and point of view. Through the year, we look for main ideas and details in each of three or four books we work on in depth. The vocabulary extension, interpretation of what is in the book (and also what is “between the lines”), and simple recall, stretch into extrapolation, making Friday a very interesting day for exploring ideas with classmates who have diverse perspectives to share.
The third-grade readers participate in a literature program, reading novels while learning to analyze what they have read. The focus is on sequencing plot, summarizing events, describing characters, identifying and describing setting, and formulating opinions. The literature analysis assignments often integrate reading, art, writing, speaking, and performance skills.
Language Arts: Second-grade students use the Kelley Liongate Grammar, Gr. 1-2, for parts of speech and punctuation.
The goal of the second-grade language arts curriculum is to strengthen writing skills and enhance the connection between reading, writing, and thinking. Students learn both the parts of speech and the parts of a sentence, capitalization, punctuation, and abbreviations.
Literature Appreciation: Engaging stories central to the second-grade reading curriculum, and we have a rich library from which the children can borrow books to enjoy at school.
Vocabulary Extension: In second grade, we explore a new Latin or Greek root or affix every week.
Literature Appreciation and Analysis: The third-graders meet every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a class we fondly call Literature Appreciation and Analysis. This is a literature class designed to expand upon the foundation of literary study already begun in earlier grades. During the year, the third-graders read and analyze five or six books in three different genres. They gain further understanding of several elements of literature, especially character, setting, and plot organization. They add to their understanding of how characters’ actions help us to infer their traits. They analyze the settings of books, watching for the ways the setting enhances the movement of the plot. They identify main events, list the events in sequence, and then use the list to create a story summary. They participate in, and sometimes lead, book discussions, bouncing ideas around the room and making the stories come alive. During discussions, they infer, predict, summarize, and evaluate. The third-graders respond to the literature through art, writing, poetry, performances, and role playing.
During the course of the year, the third-graders complete several independent book projects at school and at home. The purpose of the book projects is to reinforce the concepts and terminology the students are learning in class, to extend their thinking about books, and to practice the skills involved in planning and executing long-term projects. Organizing, creating, and presenting a project involves many skills (which are taught in class), and it is part of the process of becoming an independent worker.
RAH stands for Read At Home, and the third-graders are asked to read aloud to an adult at home several times a week. RAH helps promote fluency in reading aloud, as the students continue to make reading every day a habit.
Language Arts for Young Authors: At Tilden we place an emphasis on writing, as ultimately, one’s learning, work, and intellect are judged through one’s writing. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, our third-graders strengthen their writing through learning the editing and revision processes. Their “editing eyes” are developed to attend to capitalization, end punctuation, commas, quotation marks, abbreviations, apostrophes, subject/verb agreement, usage, and contractions. In addition, they learn the parts of speech to revise with stronger verbs, more descriptive adjectives and adverbs, and proper nouns. To compliment this, they learn to confidently use both a dictionary and a thesaurus as resources for their writing. Furthermore, our third-graders are introduced to a greater variety of phrasing to begin revising for sentence fluency. Through individualized spelling instruction, each student masters the most commonly used words in English text, in combination with morphology. Finally, cursive is taught until mastered, and computer keyboarding instruction leads to word processing, boosting the third-graders’ ability to manipulate text.
Reading: Students explore literature in a variety of genres. The elements of literature studied include character, setting, plot, point of view, theme, and mood. To strengthen comprehension, students sequence events, identify main ideas, summarize, synthesize, and predict outcomes. Fluency and expression in oral reading are encouraged with a read-at-home program.
Language Arts/Writing: The language arts program is driven by the skills the students need to continue their growth as writers. Specific skills are taught, practiced, and evaluated within content areas.
They apply their understanding of topic sentence, supporting details, summary sentence, and sequencing ideas to writing well developed paragraphs, and linking paragraphs together into three-paragraph and five-paragraph essays. They write seven-paragraph reports. They write poetry using a variety of formats designed to encourage their creativity and their enjoyment of the genre. Each student’s drafts and final versions of all writing assignments are stored in his or her personal writing folder, creating a complete look at the progress made during the year.
Our computer teacher facilitates each student’s acquisition of computer keyboarding and word processing skills—key components of the intermediate writing program.
Cursive is reviewed and practiced throughout the year.
Spelling: The spelling program is individualized, with the students continuing their acquisition of the thousand words used most often in writing. The goal is excellent spelling in written work.
Thinking, collaborating, learning: Thinking skills are taught and integrated throughout the curriculum.
Collaborative skills are taught and practiced within the context of the curriculum. Students learn the skills needed to work cooperatively in a group.
Reading: In the course of reading novels, the fifth-graders engage with text to build understanding and find meaning. The goal is for students to become active readers, figuring out what information to attend to, and connecting that to other information. In addition, students analyze literary devices (metaphor, imagery, point of view, etc.) used by strong writers, and are encouraged to apply them to their own writing. They explore plot, character development, setting, symbolism, and theme through text analysis and discussion. Questions and discussions focus on considering and extending meaning, rather than retrieving information.
Students are introduced to Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.
They read Weekly Reader magazine regularly to stay abreast of current events.
Writing and Language Arts: Writing is developed and strengthened through the six traits of quality writing: ideas and content, organization, sentence fluency, word choice, voice, and conventions. Writing assignments are designed to teach students how to build and organize academic, five-paragraph essays. Through the use of the writer’s notebook, each fifth-grader explores topics of interest, digging for details and developing voice.
Students conduct research for their essays by means of interviews, published essays, articles, nonfiction and reference books, reliable databases, and websites on the World Wide Web, using online tools to systematically cite sources and take notes.
Grammar is taught to help student authors develop more flexibility and variety in their writing.
The understanding and enjoyment of poetry is encouraged as the students read, write, memorize, interpret, and recite. Additionally, poetry is explored as opportunities arise.
Speech: Speaking opportunities include informal presentations, essay readings, poetry readings and recitations, readers theater, a Shakespearean play performance, and more. Speaking skills are developed through formal speech assignments based on essays completed in the writing program. Students learn to present speeches utilizing presentation software and hardware.