In first grade there is a strong emphasis on learning to read and spell using systematic and explicit instruction. Students are introduced to phonics, spelling generalizations, high-frequency words and vocabulary in an integrated approach through a comprehensive phonics program. Students enjoy reading phonetically appropriate texts as well as listening to rich literature. Comprehension is emphasized through discussions, written responses, and art projects. Children practice their writing skills in formal writing periods during which they answer specific prompts, free write, or build their own stories using a graphic organizer.
In the second grade curriculum, writing is a major focus. We nurture the students’ confidence in expressing and sharing their ideas, while focusing on structuring complete and complex sentences. We continue to use a systematic and explicit spelling program. The students work on crafting well-organized personal narratives which focus on plot development, vocabulary, and sequencing. Reading in second grade explores a variety of genres, and the students learn the value of reading for knowledge as well as for pleasure. Daily reading lessons emphasize comprehension, fluency, decoding, and sight vocabulary.
In third grade the students read both informational and fictional texts. Literal and inferential comprehension skills are focused on through a variety of genres, and students are formally introduced to identifying and understanding figurative language. Third graders explore the elements of a story in depth. The writing process continues in third grade and students respond to specific writing prompts, reflect on their learning, and create stories and poems. Graphic organizers and checklists guide the students’ written pieces. Additionally, our systematic spelling curriculum continues.
Fourth graders read novels and nonfiction texts integrated with our social studies topics, focusing on literal, inferential, and critical thinking skills. We emphasize the literary elements of character, setting, plot, and conflict. Students prepare for bi-weekly spelling tests and learn vocabulary relevant to all content areas. In addition, they develop skill and voice in writing in a variety of genres, including personal narratives, creative fiction, poetry, and persuasive speeches.
The fifth grade incorporates a process writing approach using specific graphic organizers. While there are opportunities for narrative work, our focus is on expository writing, specifically thesis-driven, five-paragraph essays. In fifth grade the formal reading curriculum includes fiction, non-fiction, and historical fiction. Through rich texts, students focus on higher-order comprehension skills, tracing character development, summarizing, as well as identifying and understanding figurative language. Students are required to write thoughtful and thorough responses to teacher-assigned questions and become comfortable incorporating text evidence to support their claims. Throughout the year, fifth graders are introduced to advanced vocabulary through a teacher-designed curriculum. We focus on grammar and spelling rules.