Reading/English Language Arts (ELA) at the Elementary Level
The district’s primary goal is to develop proficiency in the skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The reading program incorporates a balanced literacy approach that includes the following components: read alouds, shared reading, guided reading, literature study, and independent reading. A wide range of literary genres and other materials are used, and instruction varies from full class to small groups to individualized work.
The literature study portion of our balanced literacy framework is devoted to rigorous texts and reading/writing instructional units of study which align with the expectations of the Common Core Learning Standards. At each grade level, students have reading units of study focusing on the close reading of fiction, non-fiction, and grade-specific genres (ranging from mythology to historical fiction to folklore) which will provide students with the strategies and skills necessary to annotate, interpret, and comprehend increasingly more complex literary and nonfiction readings.
In addition to the reading units, students in all grades will develop their writing skills as they learn the craft of writing for the purposes of exposition, narration, persuasion. Regardless of grade level, genre, or purpose, the focus of writing instruction and practice will be the five basic dimensions to good writing:
- Ability to convey meaning thoughtfully
- Ability to develop ideas convincingly
- Ability to organize logically
- Ability to use language effectively
- Ability to apply the conventions of standard written English
In order to allow students to grow and develop as writers over time, the district will be using common rubrics throughout the grade levels to help students focus on their strengths and areas for growth in each of these dimensions of good writing.
English at the Junior High School Level
The English 7 course is designed to emphasize basic skills in the areas of reading, writing, listening and speaking. We use the Prentice Hall Literature series plus a wide variety of novels to introduce students to the formal study of literature and literary terms. The Holt Middle School Handbook is used for grammar and mechanics instruction. The basic elements of grammar, usage, punctuation and capitalization are taught using a standard text, the student’s own written work and through literature. Spelling and Vocabulary requirements are drawn from literature, published books of spelling words, and SAT prep resources or other resources. Whenever possible, an integrated approach is used in the teaching of basic skills. Effective writing techniques are emphasized and considerable time is devoted to the writing process. Most writing is done in response to literature read. Reading is, of course, emphasized and students will be expected to read required novels as well as independently chosen books. In 7th grade we utilize peer evaluation, conferencing and other techniques, which are designed to improve written communication. Computer instruction, stressing word processing, is also included in the seventh grade language arts curriculum. Students will be prepared to successfully complete the NYS grade 7 English Language Arts assessment.
In English 7 Enriched the aspects described above are emphasized with a greater deal of difficulty, designed to challenge the abilities of our most capable students. Students in the 7E English class participate in a variety of enrichment units that could include poetry, novels, research skills, short stories and newspapers. The writing assignments, while similar to that of regular English program, are presented in greater depth and a higher quality of writing, including analysis and critical assessment, is expected. Students in the enriched program are expected to work with a minimum of compulsion by the classroom teacher.
In order to be considered for the participation in the 7E program, to continue in the program for the entire seventh grade year, and to be considered for the eighth grade Enriched English class, students must meet and maintain the following criteria:
- Students’ score at or above the 75 percentile locally in both reading and total language on standardized tests.
- The student must have demonstrated exceptional ability in the language arts program the previous year. This ability would be demonstrated in mastery levels of both writing and reading comprehension. It is assumed that the student has maintained A’s in achievement throughout the year.
- Students labeled as gifted will be given serious consideration for this program. Inclusion in the grade six LEP program does not automatically qualify a student, however, the quality of writing in the student’s portfolio will be a major factor in determining the student’s placement in this program.
- Students considered for this program must have effort and conduct grades of G or E. Students must have demonstrated that they are motivated to excel beyond standard expectations.
The above criteria must be maintained throughout the seventh grade year for the student’s continuation in this program and consideration for the 8E program.
Fundamental ELA is an Academic Intervention Service (AIS) for 7th and/or 8th graders who need extra
assistance in language arts. Students included generally are at risk of scoring at Level I or II on a NYS ELA assessment or are recommended for inclusion by their 7th or 8th grade English teacher. Students enrolled in Fundamental ELA meet every day for 20 minutes in lieu of silent reading.
The eighth grade English program is designed to provide students with a strong background in basic skills. The development of reading, writing, listening and speaking skills is stressed within the language arts classroom. Students will be required to read several class taught novels as well as independently chosen titles. Students are expected to demonstrate their ability to appreciate and to respond to quality literature through discussion and independent writing assignments. This course stresses the need for effective written expression with an emphasis placed on the writing process and the mechanics of language. Students will be prepared to successfully complete the NYS grade eight English/Language Arts assessment.
The English 8E program is designed to meet the needs of the most capable students within the area of language arts while addressing the same instructional objectives as English 8. Emphasis is on reading and writing skills with enrichment provided through individual and group extension projects in these components of the curriculum. Special units of study may include research, drama, poetry, and the novel. To be considered for inclusion, and to remain in the class for the full year, a student must meet and maintain the following:
- The student has maintained an overall ‘A’ average in the area of language arts in seventh grade.
- The student achieved at or above the 75 percentile locally on the total language and reading sub-tests of the ITBS.
- The student must be recommended by the current language teacher.
- The student has demonstrated high motivation and well developed study habits.
- The student has demonstrated an ability to analyze literature and think critically.
- The student is a mastery writer, based on evaluation of the student’s writing portfolio.
- The student has demonstrated the ability to work independently and a curiosity for learning beyond the daily classroom instruction.
- Students will be prepared to successfully complete the NYS eighth grade English/Language assessment. Recommendations for ninth grade will be based upon a student’s success in meeting these requirements.
Reading & Writing
A course in reading/writing is required by the State/District regulations for students whose scores on standardized tests indicate a need for intensive instruction in these areas. Reading comprehension, vocabulary, and writing skills are developed as students read and write about high interest, young adult novels. Study skills, as well as reading and writing in contents area courses, are also addressed. Reading/Writing is taught in small classes every day throughout the year. Parents of students being scheduled for reading/writing will be notified.
English at the High School Level
The high school English Department curriculum promotes the development of reading and writing skills aligned with the Common Core ELA standards. In the area of reading, students are exposed to a wide variety of grade level literary and nonfiction works. The emphasis is on teaching students to develop effective close reading skills including the analysis, interpretation, evaluation, and synthesis of challenging texts. Reading instruction also includes vocabulary development. In the area of writing, students engage in various types of writing including literary analysis, argumentation, narration, and description. Writing tasks in grades 9-12 are designed to build students’ revision skills and foster independence in writing clear, logical, well-evidenced claims, as well as to encourage the development of voice. Grammar is taught as part of the writing process with an emphasis on usage concepts outlined in the Common Core Language Standards.