English Language Arts

BalanceD Literacy

The balanced literacy model in the Tri-Town elementary schools incorporates instruction in reading, writing, and word study using research-based practices. Instruction is delivered through a combination of whole group, small group and 1:1 instruction during Reader's Workshop, Writer's Workshop and the Word Study block.

Reader's Workshop

Reader's Workshop provides a structure where students engage in authentic reading experiences with explicit instruction and modeling, guided practice, and an opportunity for independent practice daily. Students are exposed to a wide variety of genres in both fiction and nonfiction as they progressively move through reading units of study in grades K-6.

The workshop model includes the following components:

  • Mini Lesson
    • A mini lesson is a brief whole group lesson that focuses on a specific reading strategy or skill.
  • Guided Reading/Strategy Groups
    • Guided reading is small group reading instruction that helps children access text at their instructional reading level. Strategy groups provide instruction for small groups of students who have a similar need to learn a specific reading strategy or skill.
  • Independent Reading
    • Students read independently and are given choice in text selection during this time to promote a love of reading. Depending on the grade level, students will write in response to their reading in various ways.
  • Conferring
    • The teacher meets with students individually to check-in on their progress during independent reading.
  • Group Wrap Up/Share
    • During this time the mini lesson focus is recapped and solidified and students have the opportunity to share their learning within their reading community.

Writer's Workshop

Writer's’ Workshop replicates the Reader's Workshop model including many of the same components.

  • Mini Lesson
    • A mini lesson is a brief whole group lesson that focuses on a specific writing strategy or skill.
  • Guided Writing
    • The teacher gathers a small group of students to provide instruction on a specific writing strategy or skill.
  • Independent Writing
    • Students work through the writing process during this time applying newly learned skills into their piece of writing. The teacher typically assigns the mode of writing (narrative, argument/opinion, or informational/explanatory) but the student should have choice about the topic.
  • Conferring
    • The teacher meets with students individually in a writing conference to confer about the status of the student's piece of writing.
  • Group Wrap Up/Share
    • During this time the mini lesson focus is recapped and solidified and students have the opportunity to share their writing within their writing community.

Experts agree that there are certain characteristics or "traits" that make up quality writing. These traits provide a clear instructional map for writers and diminish the level of subjectivity when assessing writing. They are are explicitly taught through mini lessons and reinforced in small guided groups and individual conferences.

These characteristics, or “traits” are:

  • Ideas
    • Good writing has clear ideas, a purpose, or focus. It should have specific ideas and details.
  • Organization
    • Good writing should have a beginning, middle, and an ending and be well organized and easy to follow.
  • Voice
    • Good writing connects with the audience, fits the purpose for writing, and reveals the voice of the writer.
  • Word Choice
    • Good writing has specific nouns and verbs and strong words that deliver the writer's message.
  • Sentence Fluency
    • Good writing has sentences that vary in length, with a variety of sentence beginnings. The writing flows smoothly from sentence to sentence.
  • Conventions
    • Good writing is edited for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling so the writer's ideas are easily understood.

Word Study

Fundations® provides research-based materials and strategies essential to a comprehensive reading, spelling, and handwriting program. This program is used in grades K-3 in the Tri-Town elementary schools.

Students in grades K-3 receive a systematic program in critical foundational skills, emphasizing:

  • Phonemic awareness
  • Phonics/ word study
  • High frequency word study
  • Reading fluency
  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension strategies
  • Handwriting (print and cursive)
  • Spelling

In grades 4-6 students continue to develop their knowledge about language focusing on higher level skills such as multisyllabic decoding, vocabulary development, word roots, and spelling. A variety of resources are used in grades 4-6 to address these concepts and reinforce these skills.