At Graland we seek to foster a love of reading while ensuring students have the reading and writing skills necessary to be successful in all areas of the curriculum. Reading and discussing a variety of engaging and meaningful texts allows students to think critically, communicate effectively, and use literature to make sense of the wider world. Essential to our literacy program is high-quality children’s literature that reflects all student and family identities as well as offers a window into the diverse lives of people in communities near and far.
In Kindergarten and first grade, the foundation for reading is set to ensure students develop strong early literacy skills. Teachers utilize Orton-Gillingham, a multisensory approach, to teach phonics and phonemic awareness skills, ensuring students can confidently segment and blend unfamiliar words. Once students develop their independence as readers, instruction focuses on building a student’s repertoire of high-frequency words and teaching word solving skills to help students become more fluent readers. Young readers also learn to think meaningfully about texts, whether read aloud by a teacher or independently. Students gain experience with comprehension, through activities that engage students with songs and rhymes, read-alouds, and poetry. Teachers demonstrate specific comprehension strategies to ensure that readers make connections, ask questions and synthesize the meanings of a text while also placing value on student thinking.
As students’ decoding skills grow in 1st and 2nd grade, vocabulary and fluency development become central to their reading progress. Students begin to tackle more challenging material and show mastery of their foundational reading skills. Reading more genres exposes students to different types of literature and a focus on informational texts helps students apply their knowledge of word-solving and comprehension strategies to more rigorous texts with vocabulary specific to the content, like science or history.
With one approach found throughout the Lower School, teachers use the writer’s workshop model to give students substantial time practicing writing across a variety of genres. Students learn to take ownership over the writing process by planning, drafting, and revising their work. Teachers conference individually with students to offer tailored instruction and help young writers improve their craft.
In third and fourth grade students work to integrate many of these foundational skills and begin applying them to analyze the wider world. Teachers use literature as a means to discuss complex and abstract ideas. Students read novels and integrate their repertoire of word solving and thinking strategies to tackle challenging books. Using whole group and small group instruction, teachers help students learn to analyze literature and in the process improve their writing and critical thinking skills. Studying the elements of specific genres allows students to develop a better understanding of craft and audience. Book groups organized by genre or theme help students learn to collaborate with others and to refine their thinking through meaningful discussion. Teachers also introduce strategies to annotate texts. Finally, students learn to craft expository writing as a way to effectively communicate their ideas about literature and support their ideas with evidence from texts.