Reading and Writing Instruction in Darien Public Schools 2014-15

Instructional Goals

To develop lifelong readers and writers

To strengthen reading and writing skills in all readers

To engage students in authentic tasks in literacy with a focus on process coupled with explicit instruction and feedback.

To develop balanced readers and writers who can proficiently read and write across genres for a variety of purposes

To develop readers who can persevere when presented with complex texts and can apply skills and strategies previously taught to access comprehension

Overview of Literacy Updates for 2014-15

The District is providing on-going, classroom based teacher professional development to support reading instruction, including phonics and our phonics/ spelling program, Words Their Way, across all grades and schools . The professional development is run by Teachers College Reading and Writing Project staff and Cory Gillette, the Literacy Coordinator

All teachers are continuing to use the revised Units of Study in Writing series written by Lucy Calkins and colleagues at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. These books incorporate the Common Core Standards into all of the units.

•All writing is assessed across three categories in all types of writing units and all grades. The categories are: structure, development and language conventions (spelling, punctuation and grammar). Reading and phonics are assessed formally at least three times of year as well.

In our elementary classrooms students read 'just right' materials and write for authentic purposes using the writing process across genres. Teachers get to know their students’ abilities and needs and monitor their progress through on-going formal and informal assessments in reading, writing, spelling and phonics. Teachers use the assessments to angle their teaching to meet the needs of his/her students. Teachers use a balanced approach which means that we use a variety of teaching methods and materials necessary to create a balanced learner. The approach varies based on the specific student or class. That is, we teach both phonics and comprehension strategies. In addition to small group, individual, and whole class phonics instruction based on reading level, we use a national program called Words Their Way to teach phonics and spelling. This program is designed to meet the individual needs of the reader and speller as they learn different letter sound combinations and their corresponding spelling.

Daily we use a method for instruction called 'The Workshop Model'. It is a consistent and structured chunk of time that provides teachers with multiple opportunities to explicitly teach reading and writing skills and to also differentiate their instruction in one-on-one or small group lessons. This model also allows students opportunities to independently apply the skills and strategies taught in reading and writing lessons. The results of students' approximations, or best try, when working independently informs further instruction from the teacher. Since the majority of workshop time is spent working with students where they are,this is an effective method to use when working with diverse levels of learners. Also since students are writing and reading at their own levels they are not held back from higher levels or remediation if needed.

In addition to the workshop model we also teach reading through read aloud and shared writing. In writing we also use shared writing and interactive writing to teach writing skills and strategies.

We use units of study in our reading and writing curriculum. The unit focuses the instruction on a specific genre or topic that the entire class is engaged in. Though the units of study change across the year, the same reading and writing skills are taught with higher and higher levels of complexity as the units progress. That is to say, each unit builds on the skills strategies learned in the previous units. The strategies we teach everyday will be used again and again across the year. Look below and see an overview of our units of study.

We work very hard to be explicit in our instruction and to give students a visual reminder of our teaching that they can refer back to when the lesson is over because they will need to use that strategy again and again as they read or write. Here is a chart that shows a strategy for the skill of planning in writing in second grade. The left side of the chart is the strategy for the skill of generating taught the previous day. The new strategy for planning is 1.Think, 2. Plan, and then 3. Write. We are working on teaching strategies that students can easily transfer to their own writing. Pictures and steps provide a lot of support. Next to that chart is another example of visually representing strategies.

2nd grade planning and generating support.jpg2nd grade chart unit 1 ww.jpg

Here is an overview of our K-5 Reading and Writing Curriculum. We use the structures described above to teach the skills and strategies of these units.
Overview of Reading and Writing Curriculum Scope and Sequence by Grade Level

Reading Assessments

We use two different assessments for measuring students' reading abilities in grades K-5, the DRA and Teachers College Running Records. Students are not labeled by their result, but instead their level helps teachers direct their reading instruction of skills and strategies to move the reader towards the next level. We find that students who miss the skill and strategy reading work of lower levels develop comprehension issues in the higher levels. Therefore, we deliberately help student progress through the levels.

Phonics/Spelling Assessments

While we regularly assess phonics informally, we do use Words Their Way spelling inventories to assess formally how students are progressing along the spelling stages. This helps us to understand what letter sound combinations children know and which they need to work on. This is done at least three times a year.

Writing Assessments

Writing workshop in all grades builds upon the skills and strategies that were taught in the previous year. That is, the curriculum continues to focus on the writing process and the writer instead of specific pieces of published writing. Writing skills are strengthened through explicit instruction of strategies that students use repeatedly across the year, across genres and writing units of study. Teachers spend the majority of writing workshop meeting with individuals and small groups, supporting writers with specific feedback and goal setting, as they navigate new genres and learn how to write with clarity and focus, making more purposeful choices as they develop different writing pieces.

Students will be assessed before and after all units in three categories. The categories are: structure, which is organization, development, which includes the writers ability to elaborate and language conventions, which is grammar, spelling and punctuation. The results of the assessments will help teachers tailor the next units to the specific needs of their students.

We Teach Handwriting

As of September 2014 all of our Kindergarten and First grade classes will use the Handwriting without Tears Curriculum.

Here is a recent article explaining the importance of handwriting on building understanding.
New York Times Article on Handwriting

For Parents:

How to Support Your Child in Literacy at Home

Attached is a cheat sheet that I developed based off of my research, along with Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, that can help you understand what your child is focusing on in comprehension as books get more complex. The important idea here is that the work builds on each other. That is why it is so important that readers move through the bands of reading levels slowly enough to build a solid reading foundation.

If you have an idea of your child's reading level, use this document to find book suggestions. It also includes a description of text levels so that you can better understand what your child is working on as he/she moves up the reading levels. The first document is for younger children. It goes up to level J. The second document has levels K to Z.

5 Ways to Support Your Child's Reading and Writing Life

Tips for Reading With Your Child at Home

New Research on the Importance of Independent Reading

Article on the importance of teaching your children to love reading

Why the love of reading is so important

Book lists for K and Pre-K Parents of Emergent Storybooks

Kindergarten Specific Information

This is an article that describes the 6 stages of writing that writers move through as they progress towards conventional writing. It also includes helpful tips for parents for supporting your child.

Kindergarten can be both challenging and developmentally appropriate.

Education Week

This is a blog post on writing for young children that is perfect for parents to read if they currently have a pre-k child or a child in kindergarten.

Pre- K and K Writing

This is a blog written by a mom which provides early childhood activities that are easy, fun and valuable.

Here is another suggestion for Pre-K Parents: A Nighttime Journal

Two Writing Teachers

Helpful Links

Book list suggestions from Teachers College by level

Here is a Ted talk where the presenter discusses that the key to success is grit. (You have to cut and paste the link.)

Ted Talk on Grit

Praise and How to Give it to Our Children- Article from the New Yorker

Praise Article

This article is about the importance of bed time reading

Bed Time Reading Rules!

Resource Materials on Our Curriculum and Instruction

Research on Grammar Instruction that Supports Our Methods

Having trouble getting your head around what student/learner centered instruction really means? This article from Ed Week, written for teachers, gives a good overview of what it looks like in the classroom.

Ed Week Article

Great Article from The Reading Teacher for Parents about The Common Core Curriculum

"Literate people read fiction." Read this lecture by a children's author and learn all of the reasons why fiction and libraries are essential.

Parent Presentations

Previous Presentations Given in the District

Tokeneke PTO Presentation September 2014

Assessment Presentation from Royle School September 2014

Here are the slides from a presentation put together by all the Kindergarten teachers in the District on how children learn to read, write and spell and how parents can help.

These are the slides from our workshop for incoming kindergarten parents on 6/11/14 and 6/16/14.

Royle PTO Presentation about Reading Instruction

PTO Presentation at Tokeneke

PTO Presentation at Holmes

District Literacy Presentation in January

PTO Presentation Handout for Ox Ridge Parents

This document contains tips for parents about reading at home with your child.

Questions? Contact: Cory Gillette Literacy Coordinator