In general, learning occurs in the following three-part cycle. First, there is a period of inquiry and discovery. This followed by recounting/recording the investigation or inquiry, and ends with reflection. This cycle is repeated again and again throughout the curriculum. The skills and information learned in this manner are reinforced through practice and direct instruction.
Reading and writing are embedded into all areas of the curriculum. In addition, large blocks of time every day are devoted to the literacy program.
The early years at Carver School establish the foundation of reading that enables all future literacy achievement. We want our students not only to learn to read but to learn the many purposes of reading, and above all, to enjoy reading. We want reading to be an integral part of our students’ lives. Learning to read is more than decoding skills. We strive to build confidence in the students as readers so they will read voluntarily and often. They get to know authors and illustrators, genres, and styles. They talk with others about their reading, make connections and reflections, and think critically about what they read. Students read to become informed, to improve their lives, to have vicarious experiences, and to expand their world.
The writing program is based on the belief that writing is both a means of expression which should be nurtured and a craft in which skills and conventions of written language are learned and practiced. Students explore many genres such as poetry, the essay, research papers, note-taking skills, letter writing, mystery/adventure stories, reporting, biographies, fairy tales, descriptive writing, field observations and reflections. All writing explorations will help foster creative writing skills.
The students use a Writer’s Workshop format. In other words, they learn to write by writing, guided and supported by structured instruction. Carver School is using the Check the Deck program. This program is designed to help bridge oral and written language. As part of the Writer’s Workshop, the teacher presents daily lessons on various aspects of the writer’s craft. These are fairly brief and tightly focused periods of instruction and demonstration, leaving time for the student to write on his/her own. These “mini lessons” could be any step in the writing process and are based on close observation of the class as well as national writing standards. For example, the teacher might notice that several students are struggling with how to write an introduction to an essay, and teach various approaches to crafting an engaging and cogent introduction. Or the teacher might teach a whole-group lesson on metaphor as part of a class poetry project. Students will be meeting with the teacher for teacher-student conferences to discuss his/her writing on an ongoing basis.
To augment and support the students’ reading and writing, each student has a daily language review and a weekly spelling list. In the primary classroom the spelling words are based on the phonics skills taught during the week from the program called Unlocking the Power of Print by Dorothy Whitehead.
Our handwriting program uses the D’Nealian or Modern Print style of writing for both print and cursive writing. Students usually learn cursive writing in second or third grade.