The goal of literacy instruction is to help children gain skills in all domains of language development, including reading, writing, listening and speaking. Skyline Math and Science Academy will encourage students to become lifelong readers who are able to comprehend information presented in both academic and everyday life. Planned elements of the language arts program include the following:
6+ 1 Trait Writing. Writing skills are important for an increasing number of jobs (National Commission on Writing 2004; Executive Office of the President 2009). Poor writing skills are a barrier to hiring and promotion for many individuals, and remediation of problems with writing imposes significant operational and training costs on public and private organizations (Casner-Lotto, Rosenblum, & Wright, 2009; National Commission on Writing, 2004, 2005). Writing is also important for the development of reading skills (Graham & Hebert, 2010) and can improve learning in other academic content areas (Bangert-Drowns, Hurley, & Wilkinson, 2004). In response to the perceived neglect of writing in United States education, the National Commission on Writing proposed a set of recommendations for making writing a central element in school reform efforts (National Commission on Writing, 2006).
6+1 Trait Writing instruction will be informed by a growing body of research which has shed light on classroom strategies and practices that improve the quality of student writing. For example, a 2007 meta-analysis of research on writing instruction in grades 4–12 found support for 11 “elements of effective adolescent writing instruction” (Graham & Perin, 2007a, 2007b). These recommended practices, synthesized from the findings of experimental studies, include having students analyze models of good writing; explicitly teaching students strategies for planning, revising, and editing their work; involving students in the collaborative use of these writing strategies; and assigning specific goals for each writing project. The recent IES practice guide on Teaching Elementary School Students to be Effective Writers (Graham et al., 2012) recommends students have daily writing experiences, learn to use the writing process for a variety of writing purposes, and become a part of a community of writers that includes teachers. Finally, the use of classroom-based writing assessments is supported by a recent meta-analysis that investigated the effectiveness of formative writing assessment in improving students’ writing (Graham, Harris, & Hebert, 2011). Skyline Math and Science Academy will faithfully implement the 6 + 1 Trait Writing model, which reflects these research findings and facilitates the implementation of the recommended practices.
6+1 Trait Writing Assessment will include:
- Comprehensive workshops, decoding vocabulary, writing and comprehension.
- Based on the initial assessments, teachers will be able to develop both strategic and intensive interventions using the 6+1 traits. Teachers will apply the principles of phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.
- Daily journal writing will be employed.
- Weekly essay writing will be administered.
A 2009 study carried out by the Educational Research Institute of America found that students who received instruction using the Harcourt Journeys program had statistically significant growth in reading skills and strategy achievement when compared to students in the control group. These positive results were found for a cross-section of students in first and fifth grades across four states, with populations of students similar to those whom will be served by Skyline Math and Science Academy. The scope and sequence of Harcourt Journey and supplemental materials align with Minnesota’s state content standards and offer additional content challenge, as well.
Harcourt Journeys instruction includes:
- Guided Reading: Students will begin each literacy session with group reading activities that build their oral language skills, such as phonemic awareness, and encourage enjoyment of literature and language.
- Reading and Responding: Students will have planned, focused, and shared reading opportunities that promote student interaction with the text, with the teacher, and with each other. Exercises will help develop children’s reading comprehension, vocabulary, and speaking skills.
- Reading and Writing: By responding to text and structured writing prompts, students will develop and practice critical thinking skills and creative writing and will receive feedback on their mechanics, structure, and writing style.
Harcourt Journeys assessment will include:
- Comprehensive screening of language arts, decoding and writing, comprehension, and vocabulary.
- Based on the initial assessments, teachers will be able to develop both strategic and intensive interventions using the Journeys tool kits. Strategic intervention will enable teachers to target core skills and vocabulary and intensive intervention will enable teachers to reinforce and apply the principles of phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.
- Daily comprehension-monitoring questions will be employed.
- Weekly assessments that test core skills, criterion-referenced unit tests, and benchmark tests to evaluate performance over the academic year will be administered.
Fountas and Pinnell
Fountas & Pinnell’s books will be used for guided independent reading activities, helping to instill a love of reading. Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention may also be used for special education instruction.
Fountas & Pinnell instruction will include:
- Leveled classroom libraries.
- Intensive small group support to students who are not achieving grade level competency.
Fountas & Pinnell assessment will include:
- Benchmark assessments.
- Monthly progress assessment based on leveled readers.
- Fluid guided reading groups.