The development of skills for listening, speaking, reading, and writing is essential in all grades. Listening and speaking are first practiced in “Morning Meeting,” when the exercise of sharing and discussing allows the children a chance to listen to others, express themselves, and be heard. As children progress, they give oral reports and speeches, conduct interviews, and present information which they research by working both independently and in learning groups.
Learning to read and write is important work in the Lower School years. In the early grades, teachers read to the children classic and new picture books, as well as fables and poetry. These books are often part of larger projects, which include art activities and play. Beginning in the early grades, children get a firm grounding in learning to read by decoding words, practicing to recognize sight words, and learning specific skills to comprehend what they read. Readers, literature, and information selections ensure a complete coverage of early reading skills.
As students progress through the Lower School, literal comprehension skills are solidified with a focus on making inferences, drawing conclusions, analyzing, evaluating, and summarizing. The goal of our literature program is to instill in all children the habit and pleasure of reading by teaching them to experience and interpret literature from the start. The faculty has developed for each grade a core book list from which specific books are chosen for close study. We emphasize an understanding of the patterns of literature: themes of universal human interest, characters, the shape and style of the story, and how books relate to the reader. These books, short stories, fairy tales, plays, and poems often relate to current issues or the social studies curriculum. They may include such readings as The Amazing Bone, The Turtle Watchers, Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back, Stone Fox, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.
Children are encouraged to read for pleasure on a daily basis, both in school and at home. Each classroom is stocked with books and students have a regularly scheduled time at one of the two Lower School libraries.
Creative and informative writing take many forms at the Lower School. Younger children dictate stories and interpretations of their various activities, while older children write literature responses, news articles, essays, research reports, stories, poems, plays, and summaries. Students develop an understanding of the writing process through pre-writing, planning, drafting, conferencing, revising, editing, proofreading, and sharing. Direct instruction in handwriting, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, and mechanics is provided.