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Academics

Literacy

Whittier employs the Center for the Collaborative Classroom curriculum which our district adopted in 2017. This curriculum has three components, Being A Reader, Making Meaning and Being A Writer. Being A Reader is taught in grades K-3 and focuses on building decoding skills in our young readers. Making Meaning is our K-5 comprehension curriculum and Being A Writer teaches writing skills across every grade level. All three emphasize social skills as students learn to work in partnerships as they listen, respond and discuss texts and their own written work.

Being A Reader is taught in grades K-3 with some lessons for the whole class and mostly in small groups so teachers can help each child build their decoding skills starting with what they know. Phonological awareness (orally understanding and putting together sounds to construct words) is an essential piece of this curriculum and helps our most vulnerable readers. Learning phonics skills, reading decodable text and studying the rules for multi-syllabic words are all part of this program. The systematic approach of the Being A Reader program ensures that students practice and generalize the phonics rules of the English language to become successful readers as texts become increasingly complex. Regular assessments are a part of this program, allowing teachers to develop an understanding of student progress and adjust their instruction to ensure student growth.

Making Meaning is a K-5 curriculum which focuses on comprehension strategies in group conversations, in partner discussions and individually.  Students are provided access to level-appropriate books in their classroom and are given time daily to read and practice reading and comprehension strategies independently. Instruction blends whole-group, small needs-based groups, and individual conferring to guide readers through the application of decoding skills and five basic comprehension strategies:

  • determining what is important
  • drawing inferences
  • using prior knowledge
  • asking questions
  • creating mental images

Making Meaning gives students tools for selecting and comprehending literature and encourages them to explore different genres, authors, and texts. The program emphasizes the interaction between readers and text. Students learn to make connections with prior knowledge and previously-read texts and ask clarifying questions when they recognize faulty comprehension.

Being a Writer provides a full year of research-based whole-class writing instruction for grades K–5. Using a workshop model, the Being a Writer program teaches the writing process while developing intrinsic motivation for the craft of writing through immersion in the narrative, informational, and opinion/argumentative writing genres. Instruction encourages students to write regularly with passion and intent as it builds an understanding of and appreciation for the skills and conventions of writing. Like Making Meaning, social skills instruction in embedded in this curriculum as students learn to listen, give feedback and work with partners and teams to accomplish shared goals. In the Being A Writer program, students learn to incorporate the 6 traits of writing:

  • content
  • organization
  • voice
  • fluency
  • word choice
  • writing conventions

Students are invited to live, work, and learn as writers; to observe their lives and the world around them as inspiration for their writing. Students receive direct instruction in mini-lessons—the teacher models a writing strategy and students follow up by practicing the strategy independently. They confer with their teacher and collaborate with other students to revise, edit, publish, and celebrate their work.

Thanks to a generous gift from the PTA in early 2017, we have provided each classroom with its own F&P assessment kit, so teachers no longer need to share sets and coordinate testing. This makes it easier for teachers to assess their students whenever they want (at least three times a year), to track growth and adjust reading goals.