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Language Arts – Primary (grades 1-4)

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Grounded in the emergent literacy practices of the Preprimary, a blend of phonemic awareness and whole language experiences sets the stage for 1st and 2nd grade children to become competent readers and writers.

Students' early reading experiences center on their own dictated stories, predictable text (rhyming or patterned language), poems and familiar stories. The teacher chooses engaging literature written in natural language to help students develop comprehension skills. As their effective decoding and comprehension strategies develop, students are introduced to increasingly sophisticated literature. Teacher-led reading groups enrich the children's reading experience by encouraging personal response, inviting inquiry and investigation and promoting thoughtful discussion. By the end of second grade, most students have been introduced to chapter books and simple non-fiction and are approaching fluency in reading. Their decoding skills are solid, and they can participate in lively discussions about whatever text they're reading.

Writing is from the heart and students use their imaginations to organize the new and interesting things they are learning in 1st and 2nd grades. Teachers provide a variety of authentic contexts in which students learn to write for different purposes and genres, such as narrative stories, letters, poetry and plays. Students also write reports based on research they've done. They take their writing through stages that ultimately enable them to fine tune content, edit and present their work to intended audiences. Teachers introduce first and second grade students to a writing process that they will use throughout their years at Ancona and that will serve as a strong foundation for effective writing throughout life.They can write complete sentences and punctuate them with periods or question marks. They use capital letters and lowercase letters appropriately. They are also able to write coherent stories that have beginnings, middles and ends and a sense of audience. Students begin to use technological resources to collect information and create interesting presentations of their original work.

In 3rd and 4th grades, students move beyond reading on literal level, and learn to read on the inferential and evaluative levels. Characterization, vocabulary, themes, setting, author's style, descriptive language, plot development and point of view are all discussed at length. While they continue to learn to read—more fluently, widely and deeply, and with more nuanced comprehension—an important shift begins with a greater share of time involving reading to learn. Therefore, students are taught strategies for reading non-fiction at this level. They build on prior knowledge, organize new information and initiate inquiry that leads to in-depth investigation. Guided reading and book clubs provide shared reading experiences and promote listening, inferring and discussion skills. By the end of fourth grade, students should be reading chapter books comfortably and recreationally. Teachers encourage them to read beyond literal information, make inferences and relate books to their own experiences. We expect students to set purposes for reading grade-appropriate nonfiction material and comprehend and organize textual information, using outlines and webs. They are exposed to a variety of resources, including technological resources, and should be comfortable using them to pursue their own questions.

In the writing workshop, students generate their own topics and move through the processes of drafting, conferring, revising, editing and publishing their work. Students write in several genres, such as personal narratives, fictional stories, expository nonfiction, essays, and poetry. Writing mini-lessons provide students with direction and introduce them to writing strategies. Students at this level are taught to write in complete sentences and are introduced to paragraphing. At the end of fourth grade, students should be able to write for a variety of purposes, knowing the difference between narrative and expository text. Their compositions should resonate with their own voices and be written for specific audiences. Their narratives should tell coherent stories with beginnings, middles and ends. Fourth graders should be able to write properly punctuated, complete sentences, use commas correctly and write dialogue with quotation marks. They should proofread their work for correct spelling and grammar. They should be able to write organized reports on topics they have researched.
Guided reading of shared texts in small discussion groups, along with independent silent reading and read-alouds form the basic structures of the primary school reading program.

Classroom libraries, regular library classes and book fairs provide a wealth of engaging reading materials and a literacy environment that supports the children’s emerging interests and skills.

In the primary grades, students begin more formal instruction in reading, writing, word study, and handwriting while exploration of language-based materials and read-alouds continue.
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