Journeys, published by Houghton Mifflin, was purchased in2011 for grades K5 and is aligned to the Common Core State Standards. It follows the leveling system of Fountas and Pinnell. It provides a balanced literacy approach to instruction with: whole group reading, smallgroup leveled reading, spiraled skills in grammar and reading strategies, phonemic based spelling components, and themed writing topics. In addition, Journeys incorporates a large number of non-fiction information based reading selections thus also allowing teachers to develop student skills in reading for meaning, comparing and contrasting, inductive thought, collaborative discourse, and academic vocabulary building which will be essential for success on the new Common Core Standards Assessments. These assessments are scheduled to begin in2014-2015. Grade 6 also follows a novel and standards based approach to grammar and writing instruction.
Yes, some schools in the surrounding areas are using theTeacher’s College Reading and Writing Program based out of Columbia University as well as hands-on spelling programs such as “Words Their Way”. While MPS teachers at the MS/HS have also used resources out of Columbia University, there are several good reading and writing programs available to school districts. Above, our elementary Journeys reading and writing program was discussed. At the middle school and high school level, the Elements of Language Series, published by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston was purchased for grades 7-12 in 2012. This series develops student expertise in grammar usage and mechanics, sentence and paragraph structure, and fosters student skill in writing for different audiences as well as purpose. The middle/high school also purchased a new Common Core aligned Literature series 7-12 published by Holt McDougal in 2012. This series promotes student skill in analyzing fictional andnon-fictional text, understanding language and culture, basing an argumentand/or persuasive essay on fact, and in conducting research using multiple sources of information.
The district also maintains lists of leveled fiction and non-fiction titles, and is collecting lists from other districts, in an effort to continually expand our instructional resources base. The district commitment to the benchmark ELA testing of grade K-10 students several times a year, on Scantron Performance Series, is also allowing us to obtain individualized reading scores for students. This provides teachers with the ability to offer students reading materials selected from the above resources that are on the individual student’s reading readiness level regardless of their cohort/grade. We have also recently implemented a new middle school honors program in ELA while continuing to provide exploratory courses (topics vary) that offer additional opportunity for reading andwriting. In the high school, we have also been expanding our choice of ELA and AP electives – i.e. Media/Presentation Skills in the Twenty-FirstCentury as well as AP English Composition.
The Common Core aligned K12 ELA curriculum (2011-2012),for MPS, can also be found on the MPS Website at the district home page then the curriculum page. Under the curriculum page, look for the programs ofstudy sub-page to find this resource. I also highly recommend that the school community at its leisure peruse the curriculum blog, found under the district curriculum page, for other district instructional updates. In this area of the web page, although access is restricted to teachers, there is also a page of instructional resources to help teachers develop student skill in analyzingc omplex text and promoting academic rigor.
Silencein the classroom can be good and it can be bad, says Katherine Schultz (MillsCollege, CA) in this Educational Horizonsarticle. Getting quiet is wonderful if a class has been rowdy, but silence inresponse to a teacher’s discussion question can bring a lesson to a grindinghalt. Schultz says we may have notions of stereotypically silent students –timid girls and Asians or Native Americans – but should consider other reasonsstudents don’t speak up:
- Thestudent is shy at that particular moment.
- Thestudent lacks the knowledge or facility in English to join in a groupconversation.
- Thestudent is following cultural norms of not speaking when there’s nothing toadd.
- The studentmay be momentarily daydreaming.
- Thestudent might be uncomfortable talking about the topic (race, for example).
- Thestudent may need more time to think through an idea.
“Rapid-pacedclassrooms favor students who can respond quickly and accurately,” says Schultz;“other students may need time to reflect and the opportunity to try out ideasin small groups or through writing. Teachers may need to learn to readstudents’ nods and facial expressions to understand silence as a form ofparticipation and to understand that students who are silent may be as engagedin learning as the student who speaks frequently, dominating the conversation.”
In her observations ofclassrooms, Schultz has come to appreciate students who are silent most of thetime but have thoughtful comments that drive the discussion forward. This makesher wonder, “Do students have a responsibility to contribute to the silence ofa classroom so that others can talk, along with a responsibility to contributeverbally to the discussion?”
Of course some students’silence means they are opting out of participating in class and missing out onimportant learning opportunities. There are several techniques teachers use toget silent students talking and broadening class discussion:
• Cold-calling, which mayincrease the number of students who speak in a class – but doesn’t address theunderlying issues that make some students silent.
• Having students turn andtalk with a “shoulder partner”, or write silently for a few moments, beforesharing thoughts in an all-class discussion. “Writing and talking informallymay give students the courage they need for speaking aloud in class and providethem with practice and time to gather their thoughts,” says Schultz.
• Giving students a fewmoments to reflect and then going around the circle asking everyone tocontribute a few words.