Reading in the 8/9s focuses on developing a strong sense of self as a reader. Reading logs allow students to document their own reading habits, and they study this data to learn more about themselves as readers. In addition to talking about how to choose “just right” books, students expand their reading comprehension skills: retelling, summarizing, making connections, making predictions, visualizing, and making inferences. They learn to read nonfiction texts for information and learn how to share this information with others.
Writing this year combines a study of both the craft and mechanics of good writing. Students learn spelling patterns and rules, grammar, and sentence structure. They learn about rules of capitalization and punctuation. They learn the difference between a fragment and a sentence and apply this understanding to their own writing. Writing work this year includes personal narrative, letter writing, descriptive writing, some free writing, and writing to support the work students are doing in social studies, math, and science.
Building on the library skills acquired in the 7/8s, students in the 8/9s enhance their literacy skills and understanding of stories and information. They delve deeply into one particular book and learn to become increasingly independent library users—using alphabetical order to organize books and finding books within sections of the library. Students also have an opportunity to hone their critical reading skills by evaluating picture books for the Irma S. and James H. Black Book Award, , which is presented by Bank Street’s Center for Children’s Literature. For this annual award, children in the 8/9s and 9/10s select four finalists after evaluating 16 current picture books, guided by the librarian and their classroom teachers. The 6/7s and the 7/8s read the four finalists and vote, along with students from hundreds of schools around the world, on the winning book.
The Spanish program in the 8/9s is designed to help children acquire language-learning strategies and build a meaningful and usable vocabulary. Learning a language is a social experience, and Spanish class is full of interpersonal and experiential activities. We emphasize listening and speaking in the classroom through stories, games, songs, chants, art projects, conversations, videos, Total Physical Response (TPR) activities (learning vocabulary through gestures and actions), and written work. At the end of each class, children are encouraged to practice speaking in Spanish at home to reinforce and support the retention of their language skills.