Our language arts curriculum is built on the idea that strong readers engage deeply with writing, and strong writers engage deeply with reading.
In reading, we begin the year asking children to reflect on who they are as readers—what kinds of books do I like, what constitutes a “just right book” for me? We begin by reviewing reading strategies such as connecting, questioning, predicting, visualizing, and inferring. As the year continues, students enhance their understanding of the actions and motives of characters.
They also examine the structural elements of stories. They learn close reading of nonfiction texts using such skills as highlighting, annotating, and summarizing. They practice these skills on increasingly complex texts related to our China curriculum. By the end of the year, we read a whole-class novel, Red Scarf Girl. Reading for Current Events allows students to build their skills as critical readers, identifying fact versus opinion and supporting a point of view with evidence.
In writing, students use the writer’s notebook to experiment with and develop a variety of ideas. Once students commit to an idea, they begin the process of drafting, revising, and editing. Students work independently, with writing partners, and with teachers as they develop their writing technique and voice with our first project, a memoir. Students learn to write persuasively about an issue that they feel passionately about as well as to create informational texts, many of which are integrated with the social studies curriculum. They learn to write engaging introductions, paragraphs with clear topic sentences and supporting evidence, and strong conclusions. Students become more critical readers of their own work, improve their proofreading skills, and focus on the standard grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
In their library work, students in the 10/11s and 11/12s participate in the Mock Newbery program. Working with Bank Street’s Center for Children’s Literature, the children’s librarian solicits donations of current books appropriate for 10/11s and 11/12s. Classroom teachers tailor the curriculum to their students’ needs. Students practice and refine their critical thinking and public speaking skills by evaluating and discussing books eligible for Bank Street’s mock Newbery award.
World languages in the Upper School continue to build on the language-learning established in the Lower and Middle Schools: to provide children with positive, enriching experiences that will help them become life-long learners and appreciators of other languages and cultures.