Reading and Writing in the Content Areas
A portion of our our English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum centers around students studying social studies and science content and using their understanding of that content to read, write, and complete projects and presentations related to that content. In 2nd grade, for instance, students learn about immigration to the United States — the push and pull factors that cause people to immigrate, as well as the challenges that immigrants face when moving to a new place — by reading primary source documents, watching instructional videos, and conducting additional research. Using this information, they construct an understanding of why people immigrate and whether their adopted homeland lives up to what immigrants anticipated. Students write informational, opinion, and narrative pieces, as well as create projects based on all that they’ve learned about immigration.
What students learn is aligned with the New York City Social Studies and Science scope and sequence, as well as the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) for each grade. In grades 3 through 5, much of the content students study is also drawn from the Expeditionary Learning curriculum. A grade-by-grade breakdown of what students learn about during their Reading and Writing in the Content Areas block is as follows:
- Kindergarten: school community, stories, farms, poetry, plants and neighborhoods.
- First grade: families, narrative, history of the earth, animals and habitats, community.
- Second grade: immigration, story-writing, ancient China, and cycles in nature.
- Third grade: how children in communities around the world access books and knowledge, in-depth study of the novel Peter Pan, frogs and their adaptations.
- Fourth grades: NYS & Native Americans — first inhabitants of NYS, colonial & Revolutionary periods, freedom and the new nation, voting rights.
- Fifth grade: stories of human rights, biodiversity in rainforests, sports & athletes, natural disasters.
At PS 169, Sunset Park School, we believe in the importance of students learning deeply about a range of topics. We also believe that students need to express and share their learning in authentic ways. Every grade has Choice Time multiple times a week, during which students create projects of their own design to express what they’ve learned during each Reading and Writing in the Content Areas unit of study. Classes have culminating museums or presentations when students can share their work with an audience — their family members, other students, teachers, administrators, and community members.
Another portion of our English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum helps students to become thoughtful, purposeful readers who are able to make meaning from texts across a range of genres. During the Literacy period, students have dedicated time to read books of their choosing independently. While they are reading, teachers are meeting with students individually to gain an understanding of the reader’s identity and provide targeted support.
The Literacy period may also include other elements, such as:
- Read aloud: Teachers model reading skills and strategies that students are able to practice.
- Shared reading: An interactive reading experience where students share in the reading of a text and are guided and supported by the teacher.
- Mini-Lessons: Targeted, short lessons on reading skills and strategies that may be taught whole-class, in small groups, or one-on-one, and are based on needs that surfaced from meeting with students individually.
- Small-group instruction: Students are grouped based on need and are taught a series of lessons to help instill a love for reading by providing access to texts of their interest and academic need.
In many classrooms, in addition to the classroom teacher, Academic Intervention Services (AIS) teachers also work with groups of students who may need more intensive support during the Literacy period.
We provide support for students who are struggling with reading and writing using a range of programs:
Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) provides intensive, small-group, supplementary literacy intervention for students who find reading and writing difficult. The goal of LLI is to lift the literacy achievement of students who are not achieving grade-level expectations in reading. More information about LLI is here.
Just Words is a decoding and spelling program for students in grades 4 and up who have gaps in their decoding and spelling proficiency. More information about Just Words is here.
Reading Recovery is a short-term intervention for first graders having extreme difficulty with early reading and writing. A specially trained teaches works individually with students in daily 30-minute lessons lasting 12 to 20 weeks. More information about Reading Recover is here.
Reading Rescue is a short-term intervention for lower grades students who are struggling with early reading and writing. A Reading Rescue tutor works individually with students for 30 minutes a day for about 18 weeks. More information about Reading Rescue is here.
Responsive Classroom provides our framework for social-emotional learning. Responsive Classroom is a research-based approach to K-8 teaching that focuses on the strong link between academic success and social-emotional skills. It is based in the belief that a high-quality education for every child is built on the foundation of a safe and joyful learning community. For more information visit the Responsive Classroom website.