English Language Arts at Julian Newman
Literacy is Our Goal
The goal of the Julian Newman English language arts curriculum is for all students to achieve English language literacy in order to be college and career ready. This is accomplished through a sequential, comprehensive curriculum that develops lifelong, critical thinkers who approach problem solving with confidence. The foundation of skills and knowledge in the Julian Newman English language arts curriculum should prepare all students to function as highly skilled communicators for personal and academic needs in elementary, middle, and high school as well as at the college and career level. With this important foundation, our students can achieve the goal of English language literacy.
Our English language arts curriculum for the twenty-first century includes the strands of reading foundations, literature, reading informational text, writing, speaking and listening, and language that prepare students for their roles as citizens in a diverse society. As in the past, reading, writing, and critical thinking continue to play central roles in the development of literate individuals. As the world changes, however, students must assume a more active role in their learning as they inquire and research using technology and information from a variety of sources to solve complex problems and to compete in a global society. Students are learning how to locate and use information responsibly as they become better readers, writers, and thinkers. The purpose of the English language arts curriculum is to develop English language literacy in all students, which includes the ability to read, write, and speak effectively; to think critically in a diverse society; and to problem solve independently in a complex world. Ultimately, literacy enables students to fully participate in a democratic society. The preparation students receive in the English language arts classroom helps students move into the future as truly literate individuals.
Developing a Love of Literature
We believe it is important for teachers to provide students with a variety of authentic texts, allow students to selfselect some of their reading materials, and increase efforts to inspire within students a genuine love of reading. In addition, efforts are made to increase the quantity of reading to help students expand their reading abilities and bring them into regular contact with new words, sentence structures, and paragraph and story structures. To help students cultivate a love for reading and an appreciation of literature, our teachers provide students with opportunities for sustained silent reading of student-selected, high-interest reading materials. Such opportunities allow students to naturally develop increased reading fluency and comprehension. However, self-selection of reading materials is not intended to replace direct instruction on assigned or more challenging reading selections. Direct instruction in reading strategies does not detract from reading enjoyment; rather it increases the pleasure that may be gained from reading literature. Substantial amounts of reading time in the classroom should be spent providing instruction in comprehension strategies such as identifying main idea, making inferences, identifying author purpose, distinguishing fact and opinion, summarizing, predicting, and questioning.
Fluency is one of the five essential components of reading instruction. Fluency involves both the number of words read per minute and the ability to read with expression. Reading with expression includes combining words in phrases and clauses and pausing appropriately for commas and end punctuation. For most readers, fluent reading requires practice and instruction and cannot occur when students are reading text with many unfamiliar words. Our teachers model fluent reading with material at the student’s independent reading level and then have the student read the same passage orally. To achieve reading fluency, several important strategies are employed as part of reading instruction:
- • Allow for repeated readings
- • Provide explanations of why certain words are grouped and connected
- • Provide explanations of why pauses are appropriate at certain places
- • Utilize high-interest poetry and story reading materials
- • Allow for reading of quantities of materials without paying special attention to quality
- • Encourage use of decoding skills to aid in word recognition
English Language Learners & Differentiated Instruction
Providing differentiated instruction is not only for English language learners (ELLs), nor for struggling readers or students with special needs, but for all students. Teachers are able to differentiate content, process, and product based upon the fact that learners differ in readiness, interests, and learning styles. Ongoing and diagnostic assessment is at the core of differentiated instruction. All students are able to learn—just not in the same way.
An increasing number of students in today’s classrooms come from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and have limited English proficiency. These students are not a homogeneous group of students learning English. Personal, cultural, and educational backgrounds differ significantly and, therefore, require instruction that meets their particular needs. ELLs require instruction that makes content comprehensible, which accelerates acquisition of academic language proficiency. Appropriate instructional support includes access to literature in the student’s heritage language for classroom and homework assignments, integration of multicultural literature and availability of bilingual books, meaningful hands-on activities that contextualize abstract concepts, and use of the heritage language in writing and speaking activities. Instructional strategies are adjusted as language proficiency increases.