AISJ uses the American Education Reaches Out (AERO) literacy Standards and Benchmarks K-12. Our pedagogical approaches are derived out of researched best practices from around the world, in consultation with leading consultants in the field of literacy. Authors and literacy coaches such as; Matt Glover, Maggie Moon, Stephanie Harvey, Debbie Miller, Kathy Collins and Stevie Quate have been instrumental in helping us shape our beliefs and practices in literacy. We strive to develop a culture of consistency in our approach to teaching literacy throughout the elementary and middle school and are committed to providing ongoing professional development and training for our faculty. Student success is measured against developmentally appropriate outcomes for students within each grade. These can be seen through the PK-8 Scope and Sequence documents.
With targeted instruction and explicit learning outcomes, it is our belief that students will be more likely to achieve success. Therefore, students are immersed in ‘units of study’ in both reading and writing. Using a workshop approach, teachers use a variety of instructional strategies including whole class mini-lessons, independent time, individual conferences and small group lessons to differentiate instruction based on the individual needs of students. A Balanced Approach to literacy includes: Interactive Read Alouds, Guided Reading, Shared Reading, Interactive Writing, Shared Writing, Reader’s Workshop, Writer’s Workshop and Word Study.
Interactive Read-Aloud with Accountable Talk
The teacher reads aloud to the whole class or small groups, stopping at selected points to model reading strategies and thinking. Students are asked to practice the reading strategies independently and by turning and talking with a partner to reinforce the concept or skill being taught. The goal is to promote a love of reading, stimulate thinking, and help students develop vocabulary and structure of language in print. The workshop model creates the learning context for units of study that last for approximately 4-6 weeks. During this time, students receive direct instruction in decoding strategies, comprehension strategies, and ways to respond to their reading. They are given opportunities to practice strategies that proficient readers use while developing reading habits and behaviors that will remain with them for life. Although decoding strategies are emphasized in the early years, students are taught how to demonstrate comprehension in increasingly complex ways as they progress through the grades. We believe through using a strong workshop model, students will learn to know themselves as readers, take risks, make appropriate choices about the books they read and build independence and stamina for reading. Most importantly, we aim to promote a love of reading through engagement with high-interest texts in both literary and informational genres. Therefore, all students have access to extensive classroom libraries, which house a range of accessible, high-interest texts across a variety of genres.
The teacher introduces a carefully selected levelled texts at the student’s instructional level. This helps the teacher to monitor individual student’s progress and directly teach students at their instructional reading level.
Students need explicit instruction to develop functional handwriting. The development of gross and fine motor skills are essential in helping to build successful writers within an elementary school context. Students in EC - Grade 2 receive targeted handwriting instruction using a developmental program called ‘Handwriting without Tears’.
Shared reading helps build a student’s awareness of text, improve fluency, and increase comprehension. It helps students to see themselves as readers as they feel comfortable experiencing fluency when joining in the reading of familiar texts with others. Shared reading typically involves a ‘Big Book’ using enlarged text, or a text projected onto a screen. Students either read the text in unison with the teacher outloud, or listen and read along while the teacher reads the text. This allows the teacher an opportunity to model reading strategies, demonstrate how reading works and what readers do to construct meaning.
The teacher and students collaborate to write the text; the teacher acts as the scribe. Modeled/Shared Writing develops concepts of print, supports reading development, provides a model for a variety of writing styles, models the connection among and between sounds, letters, and words, produces text that students can read independently, models the metacognitive processes linked to writing and necessitates communicating in a clear and specific manner.
Word Study provides students with opportunities to investigate and understand patterns in words. Word Study is designed to build word knowledge that can be applied to reading and writing. Tied closely to reading instruction, word study developes students' abilities in phonics, word recognition and vocabulary.
The Importance of Conventions
Within each grade level, there is a strong emphasis placed on the conventional aspects of written and spoken language. The grade level expectations for conventions are embedded into our units of study.