At Corvian Community School, literacy is the first and most essential goal. All students are expected to become proficient in the written and spoken word. Language at Corvian is defined broadly to include words, numbers, and the arts. We consider all of these to be critical areas of development for students to be truly communicative, and we expect our students to have a deep understanding of all three areas. Language is the means by which all other subjects are pursued. Reading instruction is not just limited to a short block of time, but is also incorporated throughout the day across the curriculum. As a result, students become exposed to a variety of genres of literature, such as fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and songs.
Reading instruction in elementary school is one of the biggest concerns for both parents and educators, as success in reading is directly related to later success and achievement in life. At Corvian Community School, we adhere to a balanced literacy approach which focuses on reading for meaning. We incorporate the five major areas of reading instruction (phonemic awareness, explicit phonics instruction, fluency, vocabulary development, and comprehension) into our balanced literacy program.
In the primary grades, we teach students numerous strategies to decode unfamiliar words, such as phonemic, phonetic, semantic, and syntax awareness. Emergent and beginning readers practice strategies for decoding, fluency, and comprehension in guided groups where they receive direct reading instruction while using texts that are appropriate for their level. This model focuses on word chunks, word patterns, and the blending of sounds. Students spend time on systematic rules of phonics in short mini-lessons and then transfer and apply these newly learned skills to their reading and writing.
In the upper elementary grades, students are beginning to "read to learn" as opposed to "learning to read." While reaidng books on their appropriate guided reading levels, they practice reading comprehension skills and strategies and are exposed to a variety of genres. Students are explicitly taught strategies, (including synthesizing, determining importance, inferring, questioning, and metacognition), and are then given multiple opportunities to apply these strategies across genre and curricula. Students will also participate in groups such as novel studies, literature circles, and book clubs as a means to interact with different pieces of text and to experience the joy of reading. In addition, vocabulary and word relationship instruction become an integral part of the reading workshop to enhance meaning and comprehension of advanced text.
At Corvian Community School, writing is viewed as the counterpart to reading and is woven through the entire curriculum. Writing is an act of both discipline and discovery, one that allows children to be self-expressive while exhibiting clear thinking; children are encouraged to write each day. There is an emphasis on the writing process throughout our elementary program which includes brainstorming, drafting, editing, revising and publishing. Students experience explicit instruction in writing technique in order to apply lessons learned to their own writing pieces in a variety of styles and for a variety of purposes.
Corvian Community School uses the widely acclaimed writing program Handwriting Without Tears® (HWT). This program was founded and created by Jan Z. Olsen, an occupational therapist, and is perfectly developed for young learners. The curriculum in the program places emphasis on teaching the readiness skills necessary to ensure handwriting success. The HWT teaching method was also developed to have as few opportunities for letter reversals (the most common early writer mistake) as possible for the students, and as a result, makes handwriting easier and less frustrating for children to learn. We use HWT curriculum for both printing and cursive instruction in grades K-4.