ELA Beliefs and Philosophy


    The English Language Arts Program in the North Nerrick UFSD is a reading and writing program that integrates speaking and listening. It is informed and guided by the New York State Standards for English Language Arts and is integrated into all content areas throughout the day.

    In reading, students are taught the conventions of print and how to utilize multiple cueing systems to become fluent readers in a print-rich environment. The study of phonics, structural analysis, and word work are essential components of decoding instruction. Skills and strategies are taught in a meaningful context using authentic texts. As early as kindergarten, students are taught metacognitive skills. They employ these thinking skills in their search for meaning as they listen and read. They learn to utilize their prior knowledge to predict and to make sense of what they read. Students receive direct instruction in comprehension skills such as finding the main idea, retelling, comparing, inferring, and summarizing. From the earliest grades students are taught to listen and read for information, to reread for clarification, and to monitor their own understanding as they interact with the text.

    In writing, students are taught to convey their ideas by utilizing a specific writing process. First, they are immersed in a genre through their reading. Here they discover the features of the genre, as well as the craft techniques used by authors. Next, they collect and develop related ideas in their writing folders or notebooks and experiment with styles introduced by teachers and mentor authors. Then they draft and revise their writing pieces, testing out various possible alternatives modeled by teachers. The editing process, which involves the correction of grammar and conventions, is then enacted. Students publish a final draft and celebrate by sharing their work with an audience that may include peers, parents, teachers, and/or administrators.

    The Balanced Literacy approach engages children in a variety of reading and writing experiences that model powerful examples of effective literacy practices using fiction and nonfiction texts. Children learn in a supportive environment where lessons are designed with appropriate scaffolding to meet the needs of all. A gradual and anticipated release of responsibility from teacher to student moves learners along a planned continuum on their journey toward independence.

    The elements of a Balanced Literacy approach are as follows:

    • Read Alound
    • Shared Reading
    • Guided Reading
    • Independent Reading
    • Word Work
    • Shared Writing
    • Interactive Writing
    • Writiing Workshop
    • Independent Writing

    The Essential Elements of an Effective English Language Arts Program

    A comprehensive ELA program incorporates listening, speaking, reading, and writing. It is comprised of the following elements:

    A literate environment

    • contains a well-stocked classroom library that includes a variety of fiction and nonfiction books and periodicals which are organized by levels, authors, topics, and genres. The classroom library changes regularly according to the subject area being studied.
    • is print-rich with charts, lists, labels, word walls, etc.
    • contains prominently displayed student work which is changed regularly.
    • contains literacy centers that include reading, writing, and content area materials.
    • includes a meeting area with instructional resources.
    • incorporates the effective use of technology, such as interactive whiteboard, Elmo, Kidspiration, Inspiration, and various internet resources.

    Read Aloud (The teacher reads aloud carefully selected materials to the whole class.)

    • occurs on a daily basis.
    • exposes students to quality literature.
    • supports comprehension.
    • employs think aloud strategies to develop metacognition.
    • promotes concept and vocabulary development.
    • familiarizes students with book language, a variety of genres, and story structure.
    • promotes accountable talk and meaningful book discussions.
    • models the reading process, fluency, and expression.
    • includes multiple readings of same text.
    • provides models of quality writing to influence student writing.
    • gives access to literature, language, and information that may be beyond student reading capability.
    • occurs across the content areas.

    Shared Reading (The teacher and the class read enlarged texts/individual copies together. The teacher reads aloud at a rate that allows the students to join in.)

    • develops fluency.
    • develops word identification skills through semantic analysis, structural analysis and phonetic analysis.
    • facilitates the understanding of print features such as dialogue, punctuation marks, footnotes, glossary, line breaks, stanzas, etc.
    • provides opportunities to model the reading process.
    • occurs across the content areas.
    • provides models of quality writing to influence student writing

    Guided Reading (The teacher works with a small group of students, usually no more than six, who are reading at about the same level. The teaching point is determined by the group's need. The students have individual copies of the text and independently read, orally or silently, as the teacher observes, coaches, prompts, and evaluates their performance.)

    • occurs in small, flexible groups determined by student needs based on various assessments including DRA, running records, and student/teacher conferences.
    • utilizes texts from a variety of genres.
    • supports reading skills and strategies.
    • provides opportunities to demonstrate effective reading strategies.
    • promotes independent use of these strategies.
    • develops comprehension through questioning and discussion.
    • enables students to interact with instructional level texts.

    Independent Reading (Students self-select books at their independent reading levels. They take responsibility for working through the challenges of the text independently. During conferences, the teacher's role is to observe the student's reading habits, acknowledge his/her efforts, and teach the student.)

    • enables students to make choices and take responsibility for their own reading.
    • occurs daily on all grade levels.
    • facilitates choosing “just right” books and completing a reading log.
    • includes ongoing assessments to inform instruction such as student/teacher conferences, DRA, running records, and informal observations.
    • requires weekly conferences between teacher and student.
    • provides opportunities for students to practice the reading skills and strategies previously taught.

    Literature Study (The teacher works with small heterogeneous groups of students who have similar reading interests. Together, a text is chosen, reading and writing tasks are assigned, and students meet to talk in depth about what they have read.)

    • immerses students in quality literature.
    • engages students in accountable talk (attentive listening and responding to other students).
    • provides opportunities to share responses to books and dialogue with others.
    • encourages higher level thinking through deep discussions (Bloom's Taxonomy).
    • encourages respect for many points of view.
    • supports reading skills and strategies.
    • enables students to utilize their knowledge with story elements from a variety of genres (character, setting, problem, mood, atmosphere, resolution, point of view, voice) to deepen comprehension.
    • develops students' metacognitive skills.
    • builds the connection between reading and writing (discussing of author's craft).
    • provides models of good writing to enhance student writing.

    Oral Reading (Students read texts out loud to a variety of audiences for various purposes - for practice, for fluency development, for presentation, and so on.)

    Oral reading may include:

    • partner reading.
    • reports.
    • writer's workshop celebrations.
    • choral reading.
    • reader's theater / plays.
    • story sharing.
    • running records.

    Content Area Reading (Students read materials that are related to the various content areas such as math, science, and social studies.)

    • occurs in guided reading, shared reading, and read aloud.
    • includes multilevel texts and a variety of sources such as magazines, articles, internet sites, picture books, fiction and nonfiction related texts.
    • promotes understanding of expository text features and structures.
    • requires students to utilize reading strategies.
    • provides opportunities to gather, understand, analyze, synthesize, and use information.
    • affords practice in using graphic organizers (KWL, Venn diagram, compare/contrast lists, semantic mapping, etc.).

    Word Work (Students have opportunities to recognize and use letters and words, as well as understand their meaning.)

    • enables students to understand that words are composed of sounds and syllables .
    • fosters an understanding of visual and auditory patterning and how to identify patterns in words.
    • encourages students to recognize that larger words often have recognizable parts within them, and that "chunking" assists decoding.
    • supports the retention of sight words listed on word wall.
    • empowers students to become competent decoders and encoders .
    • includes making words, guessing the covered word, word wall activities, and rhyming activities.

    Listening (The ability to understand, organize, synthesize, and apply information that is heard.)

    • provides opportunities for students to focus for different purposes and for an extended period of time.
    • enables students to follow directions that involve a few steps.
    • empowers students to respond appropriately and critically to what is heard.
    • makes it possible for students to take notes that record the main ideas and most significant supporting details of a text that is read aloud.
    • allows students to paraphrase what they have heard.

    Speaking (There are two aspects of speaking, one that focuses on the content of what is spoken and one on techniques.)

    • entails learning the rules of speaking and listening such as taking turns.
    • enables students to understand the relationship between oral language and print.
    • gives students practice in the use of standard English grammar and conventions.
    • provides opportunities to respond to questions.
    • facilitates oral reading of literature.
    • supports active engagement in classroom discussion including the formation of an opinion using textual evidence.
    • is practiced during book talks, literature studies, and whole and small group instruction.
    • is practiced during oral presentations including show and tell, reporting, interviewing, Power Point, etc.

    Writer's Workshop/Independent Writing (Students have time each day to write, revise, edit, or publish their writing pieces. Students become purposeful authors with an awareness of audience. They have the opportunities to write in different styles and genres. Teachers assess and establish daily teaching points based on assessment.)

    • follows a specific writing process.
    • highlights features and characteristics of different genres.
    • inspires students to read texts and notice author's craft.
    • provides opportunities for students to write in a variety of genres and across content areas.
    • includes weekly conferences between student and teacher.
    • enables students to make connections between reading and writing.

    Shared Writing (The teacher and students share the composing process. The teacher acts as the recorder. By recording on chart paper/white board what he/she and the class want to say, the teacher reinforces concepts of print.)

    • demonstrates how writing works.
    • provides opportunities to draw attention to letters, words, and sounds.
    • enables student ideas to be recorded.
    • creates written language for the classroom.
    • produces texts that children can read independently.

    Interactive Writing (The teacher and students compose, with the teacher “sharing the pen” with students at strategic points. There is an added emphasis on teaching conventions of written English. When the teacher invites students to write on the chart paper/white board, he/she has an instructional goal, related to these conventions.)

    • demonstrates concepts of print and how words work.
    • affords opportunities to hear sounds in words and connect them to letters.
    • helps students understand “building up” and “breaking down” processes in reading and writing.
    • provides opportunities to plan and construct texts.
    • increases spelling knowledge using multiple strategies.
    • produces texts that children can read independently.
    • creates written language resources in the classroom.