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.
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.
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
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.