English / Language Arts

Vision Statement

Our vision for the development of an effective English language arts curriculum that fosters student learning is based on two primary concepts: English language arts are recursive and interdependent. Students in every grade level apply similar language skills and concepts as they approach increasingly more complex materials. In this way, students build upon and refine their knowledge, gaining insight, sophistication, and independence as they grow.  English language arts (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) though delineated separately, are in fact intrinsically connected. An effective English language arts curriculum weaves together concepts and skills in order to challenge and support student learning within the ELA classroom and in other disciplines. Students read and write, view and discuss, interpret and perform in order to deepen understanding, communicate meaning, and apply learning to other contexts. Our English language arts curriculum is guided by culturally responsive instructional practices that include a rich selection of diverse literature, writing traditions, and themes that value students’ experiences and broaden their global perspectives and attitudes. Our curriculum is grounded in the NCTE Standards for English Language Arts, the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks of English Language Arts, which are consistent with the philosophy of The National Writing Project and The National Communication Association.  

Philosophy

The English Language Arts Program in Amherst seeks to create a vital community of learners immersed in the process of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. As educators we believe that these processes are essential tools for communication, self-discovery, and knowledge acquisition.  When students engage with and respond to a variety of literature, they develop an awareness of the human condition, gain empathy, and discover a sense of personal empowerment that allows them to become active participants in society.

 Links to:

NCTE Beliefs about the Teaching of Writing   http://www.ncte.org/print.asp?id=118876&node=367

Guiding Principles and Best Practices for  Teaching and Learning Writing

  •  All students have the capacity to write and begin to write early, even before grammar and spelling skills are refined.
  • Students are encouraged to write daily.
  • Students are involved in the writing process: prewriting, drafting, revising, editing.
  • Students write for real audiences and publish for the class or wider communities of readers.
  • Students confer and share their work in a safe and supportive setting.
  • Writing is used as a tool for learning across the curriculum.
  • Teachers cultivate student ownership and responsibility for their writing: setting personal goals, reviewing progress, and choosing their best work for collection or publication.
  • Teachers model and demonstrate each aspect of the writing process and writer’s craft.
  • Teachers develop writing assignments with real and meaningful purposes and encourage student selection of topics.
  • Teachers reinforce the connections between reading and writing through examples of good writing from a variety of sources and model effective writing techniques.
  •   Teachers utilize culturally responsive instructional practices that incorporate the rich diversity of writing traditions and language characteristics represented by their student writers.
  • Teachers provide constructive and efficient formative, summative, and on-going assessment of the needs of student writers that encourages risk-taking and honest expression.
  • Teachers share a common language to describe the core elements of effective writing instruction.
  • Teachers encourage students to use technology as a tool to analyze and improve student writing.
  • Teachers are supported through on-going professional development and access to resources for writing instruction.

 

Guiding Principles and Best Practices for Teaching and Learning Reading

  • Students have the opportunity to read from a wide range of print and non-print sources to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and the world.
  • Students read a wide range of literature from many periods, genres, and cultures to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., aesthetic, ethical, philosophical, and political) of human experience.
  • Students use a variety of strategies (before, during and after reading) to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts.
  • Student readers draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of language, and their understanding of textual and literary features.
  • Students read for a variety of purposes, including: personal interest and pleasure, acquiring information, literary analysis, and adapting to social demands.
  • Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • Teachers use explicit instruction to model reading strategies with mentor texts, think-alouds, writing-to-learn, and opportunities for individual practice and cooperative learning, gradually releasing responsibility so students acquire independence.
  • Teachers provide a risk-free environment and create varied and flexible groupings where students can work together as reflective, creative, and responsible members of a learning community for reading instruction, literary discussion, and project-based assignments. 
  • Teachers share a common language to describe literary study and effective reading practices.
  • Teachers choose readings and texts with real and meaningful purposes and encourage student selection of topics.
  • Teachers reflect on their own practice in relation to student progress and modify and provide constructive and effective formative, summative, and on-going assessment of the needs and growth of students as readers.
  • Teachers will incorporate an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
  • Teachers are supported through on-going professional development and access to resources for reading and literary instruction.   
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