• Reading in the Primary Grades

    Reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing are the subject areas that make up the language arts. Each of these is an integral part of literacy learning. They are most effectively taught together and the reading and writing cycles mirror each other. At the K-3 level, we purposely schedule large blocks of uninterrupted learning time so that teachers can integrate the four subject areas in a way that is workable and that meets the needs of our children. 

    In order to learn to read, children should be surrounded by talk and print. They learn to read because they see and hear others read and they listen when others read to them. Children learn to read by reading with others and by reading by themselves and to others. They see how the printed word gives messages to the reader. As they listen to others read to them, children realize that the printed word can be used to tell stories and to communicate to others. As children hear more and more stories, and as they become aware of people reading and responding to print, they become interested in doing the same.

    In school we teach students to read using a balanced literacy approach. A balanced reading program includes reading aloud, shared reading, guided reading, independent reading and opportunities to respond critically and thoughtfully.

    Reading Aloud is the single most influential factor in young children's success in learning to read. Children should be read aloud to daily at every grade level. This is a powerful technique for promoting story enjoyment and literature appreciation and for noting what authors do in the writing process.

    Shared Reading is any rewarding reading situation in which a learner sees the text, observes someone reading it with fluency and expression, and is invited to read along. This is one way of immersing students in rich literary language without worrying about grade level or reading performance. For young students, shared reading and discussion of stories provide a framework for literature and language. High frequency words and the conventions of print, seen over and over again, are learned naturally. Poems that are reread for pleasure provide a way for students to build reading fluency and confidence as well as develop an appreciation of poetry. At first the shared reading activity is lead by the teacher. As students become familiar with the text, shared reading can be led by students, done in pairs of students or accomplished by using a tape recorded model.

    In Guided Reading, the teacher meets with students to think critically about a book. Selections that have been read are discussed, with the children responding to the text in open ended and personal ways. Teachers call students attention to concepts or features found in the text and teach specific strategies as the need arises. Guided reading is often the place where teachers do direct and indirect teaching of phonics, vocabulary and word attack skills.

    Independent Reading gives students an opportunity to read self-selected books . During independent reading, children choose their own books and are in charge of their own reading. The teacher guides, discusses and makes suggestions during conferences with each child. Finding out what children are interested in, helping them to choose books and introducing them to books written by an appealing author help in the selection process. Since there is no question that achievement is positively influenced by the amount of time spent reading books, we provide time for independent reading in school and make it a part of each day's homework assignment.

    The attitudes, understandings and behaviors readers display reflect their general stage of reading development. In our language arts curriculum, readers are described as being in one of the following developmental stages: emergent, beginning, developing, expanding, transitional, bridging, fluent, proficient and advanced.

    In kindergarten, students are, generally, emergent readers. They rely on the support of pictures, patterns, rhyme and repetition. Students in first grade are generally beginning readers. They are developing their reading abilities. They may make a developmental leap as they begin to integrate reading strategies and establish a repertoire of sight words. In second grade, students generally are developing readers. They are practicing their reading abilities and are consolidating their understanding of reading strategies. These stages follow on a continuum of K-2 literacy learning. The grade levels are illustrative only, as young children develop reading abilities at differing times and in differing ways. We believe that each child has the right to be instructed at his/her developmental level as he/she grows along the K-3 continuum.