Lower School Reading (Grades 1-6)
The Lower School uses a balanced reading program that regularly engages students in a variety of reading experiences including Read Alouds, Shared Reading, Guided Reading, Literature Study Groups, and independent reading. A variety of instructional structures allow teachers to differentiate instruction so students are sufficiently challenged and supported in developing their reading skills and habits. Our teachers use materials and instructional strategies that were developed by the Fountas and Pinnell Continuum of Literacy Learning, Columbia University’s Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project, and Bonnie Campbell Hill, an internationally recognized reading consultant.
To monitor and support our student reading growth, students are assessed throughout the year using the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System and the Scholastic Reading Inventory. Teachers also use a Literacy Development Continuum to articulate the progress students are making in mastering key skills associated with different levels of reading development. Using these instructional and assessment methods, our Lower School teachers have the expertise to successfully support a range of reading levels within their classrooms and within each grade level.
Primary Reading (Grades 1-2)
First and second grade are the key grade levels in which students develop their core reading skills and often experience rapid growth in reading proficiency. Students typically enter the Primary program exhibiting beginning reading skills such as using finger-pointing to match the print to the word they are reading, reading books that follow simple patterns, relying on illustrations to decode the print, and reading independently for short periods of time (10 – 15minutes). At the end of the Primary program, students are reading chapter books, recognizing word endings, contractions, and many high-frequency words, reading with strong fluency and voice inflection when reading dialogue, comparing and contrasting different characters and different books, and are able to independently read for longer periods of time.
Lower Intermediate Reading (Grades 3-4)
Students continue to develop their individual reading skills in 3rd and 4th grade. Teachers monitor each student’s reading proficiency and provide them with appropriate levels of books and instruction to increase their fluency and comprehension. Students learn strategies for tackling multisyllabic words and figurative language. They learn how to construct mental summaries of text, complete with big ideas and supporting information. By the end of 4th grade, students are able to use their knowledge of story structure to help them navigate fiction and nonfiction text. They participate in conversations with peers through book clubs, discussing traits of characters, analyzing settings, and interpreting the theme.
Upper Intermediate Reading (Grades 5-6)
Fifth- and sixth-grade students develop their individual reading skills in various genres of fiction and non-fiction text. They apply higher-order thinking habits developed through their years of reading, such as using appropriate resources to build knowledge and determining vocabulary in context. Teachers continually monitor each student’s reading proficiency and provide them with appropriate levels of books and instruction. Students participate in “Reader’s Workshop”, which include mini-lessons, independent reading, peer or teacher conferencing, and sharing. By the end of 6th grade, students are able to delve into complex texts, actively and intensively read multiple genres, and demonstrate skills such as inference, interpretation, and summarization.
Lower School Writing (Grades 1-6)
MVCDS Lower School uses the Writing Workshop instructional format to improve not only our students’ writing skills but also to make them enthusiastic and confident writers. The key focus of the workshop approach is for students to learn and practice the habits and skills used by professional writers. Other attributes of the Writing Workshop include: writing every day, daily mini-lessons to assist students in learning about the conventions as well as the craft of writing, writing multiple drafts for their selected topic, receiving frequent feedback from their teachers and their peers to assist them in improving the quality and clarity of their writing, and sharing time in which students can share what they accomplished and receive accolades from their classmates and also suggestions on what can be done to make the story, essay, or report better.
To evaluate and communicate the growth our students are making in writing, our teachers use rubrics connected to each unit of study. Students interact with these rubrics throughout the course of the unit; self-evaluation and reflection is a core component of the Writing Workshop approach. To communicate to students and their parents the overall growth the students are making, we use three writing continuums to assess writing development, one for each of the three major types of writing: narrative, informational, and persuasive, all of which include general writing conventions. The continuums assist our teachers in informing students about their current level of writing development and also to articulate the next set of skills students need to learn to reach even higher levels of competence/proficiency.
Primary Writing (Grades 1-2)
Students improve their writing by writing every day as well as through the revision process of rewriting previous stories and drafts. In addition, students receive direct instruction and writing practice connected to skills associated with specific domains of writing. In the Launching unit, students explore the habits and thinking processes used by professional writers. Students begin to learn how to write a narrative in their Small Moments unit, focusing their writing on a specific event or action. In their Opinion Writing unit, students learn how to persuade others about an item or action. In Scenes to Series, students develop their knowledge and skills in fictional writing. Every other year in Primary, students explicitly study and participate in the writing of Nonfiction Chapter Books (Year A) as they are introduced to informational writing or Poetry (Year B) where they explore different types of poetry.
Lower Intermediate Writing (Grades 3-4)
Students continue to improve their writing in the areas of personal narratives, persuasive essay writing, and informational writing. Students write every day and have opportunities to look back, reflect, and revise previous writing samples. In addition, students receive direct instruction connected to writing skills specific to the three different types of writing. Students improve their personal narrative writing in their Crafting True Stories unit as they more formally participate in the revision process and learn how to develop believable characters in their stories in the Arc of a Story unit. In the Art of Information Writing unit, students write chapter books about topics on which they have firsthand knowledge. Students develop skills on gathering and organizing information to persuade people in their Persuasive unit of study. In the Once Upon a Time unit, students explore techniques of fiction writing and compare elements to those found in different types of Poetry.
Upper Intermediate Writing (Grades 5-6)
Students continue to develop their skills as writers by writing every day and participating actively in the revision process. Students receive direct instruction in five different units to assist in the development of writing in the areas of personal narratives, persuasive essay writing, and informational writing. Narrative Craft helps students deliberately apply their knowledge of narrative writing to further develop their stories more thematically. In the Poetry unit, students continue to examine figurative language and apply it in the writing and reciting of their own poetry. The Research-Based Argument Essay unit teaches students how to build arguments that balance evidence and analysis to persuade an audience. Students continue to develop their skills as essayists in the Literary Essay unit as they learn to write convincingly about texts they have read. Students write research reports in which they use research skills to learn about a central topic and write through historical lenses to build focused research reports in their Research-Based Writing unit.