Language Arts Literacy K-5

The Language Arts Program of Studies at the four elementary schools is a student-centered, dynamic approach to the recursive process of reading and writing. The Wyckoff Language Arts Curriculum is designed to address the developmentally appropriate needs of students in conjunction with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Throughout the grade levels, readers and writers are engaged in authentic literacy experiences that are embedded across the content areas.

The district supports a balanced literacy approach in the teaching of language arts literacy using the reading and writing workshop model.  Explicit instruction is balanced with opportunities for guided and independent practice. Instruction in reading and writing is complementary and interwoven throughout the day using the components of balanced literacy. To provide authentic experiences, mentor texts are used to immerse readers in the genre and the mentor texts also serve as models of writing. 

The comprehensive reading curriculum is designed to develop proficient readers who comprehend literally and inferentially in a variety of genres. Through the reading workshop, students practice skills and strategies for word solving, comprehension, and fluency. Students read increasingly complex texts through the grades, and instruction is differentiated based on individual needs.

Through the writing workshop, students follow the steps of the writing process. Students learn to generate ideas, collect entries, choose and develop an idea, draft, revise, edit, and publish. Teachers and students view writing through the four lenses of structure, focus, elaboration, and conventions.  Conventions of language, including grammar, are embedded in daily instruction in reading, writing, and across the content areas. 

Word study supports reading (decoding), spelling, vocabulary, and comprehension. Students in grades K-5 learn phonograms, spelling rules, and morphological units through multisensory instruction, with weekly lists and activities that feature these patterns and continuously review all previous learning. The goal is to apply new and previous learning in both reading and spelling of new words. Analyzing word parts is taught as early as first grade, and students have many opportunities to combine and create new words from the parts they are taught. Students are immersed in these words each week and given frequent opportunities to use new words in diverse oral and print contexts to learn them on a deep level. 

Assessment is ongoing and interwoven into each component of balanced literacy. Teachers use formal/informal assessments and individualized teacher/student conferences to plan for instruction. Student work serves as evidence of learning; from notebook entries to written drafts, as well as pre-unit and post-unit assessments.


Students at the kindergarten level are introduced to the basic routines of reading and writing workshop.  They begin to view themselves as readers and writers as they explore a variety of genres. There is a focus on developing oral language skills by fostering collaborative conversations with peers and teacher. Children are exposed to story elements including setting, characters, and events, as they practice sequentially retelling key understandings.

Phonemic awareness teaches children to notice, think about, and manipulate sounds in spoken language. Instruction in phonemic awareness is critical. Phonemic awareness is developed through listening activities, such as sentence segmenting, rhyming, syllable blending/segmentation, and onset-rime blending/segmentation, and is implemented daily through a multisensory approach to word study.  

Concepts of print is the knowledge of written text that children must develop to become proficient readers and writers. Print concepts include the understanding that words follow from left to right, spoken words are represented in written language by specific sequences of letters, and words are separated by spaces. Students learn to recognize and name all upper- and lower case letters of the alphabet. High frequency words, spelling patterns, and phonemic structures are explored to provide foundational literacy skills.

Kindergarten students write for varied, authentic purposes.  Using a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing, young writers compose opinion pieces, informative/explanatory texts to teach the reader how to do something, and narrative texts by learning to sequence both true and fictional stories. Students begin to learn the conventions of capitalization, punctuation, and spelling in their writing.  They learn to capitalize the first word in a sentence and the pronoun I, recognize and name end punctuation, write a letter or letters for most consonant and short-vowel sounds, and spell words phonetically drawing on their knowledge of sound-letter relationships. 

Grade One

First grade readers and writers continue to practice the routines of reading and writing workshops, as they build stamina. First grade students are encouraged to ask and answer questions about key details. As they retell stories, they express their understanding of characters' feelings and the central message of the story. Through various units of study in reading and writing, students explore the differences between fiction and nonfiction texts. Students begin to know and use nonfiction text features, such as headings, tables of contents, and glossaries to locate and understand facts. Information is gleaned from illustrations and words in print. Students begin to recognize the author's point of view.

Students demonstrate an understanding of spoken words, syllables, and sounds with an emphasis on long and short vowels, consonant blends, and digraphs.  Strategies for fluency and accuracy focus on high frequency words and problem solving strategies for reading “tricky words”. Students build self-monitoring skills as the year progresses by rereading, then confirming or self-correcting as needed.

Through a variety of genres, first grade writers self-select topics, sequence events and/or facts using temporal words, elaborate using details, and bring their writing pieces to closure. First graders learn to write true stories about themselves, fictional stories modeled after realistic experiences, share their opinions on various topics by writing persuasive reviews, and teach readers through nonfiction chapter books. Students also expand their use of conventions of capitalization, punctuation, and spelling in writing. Some conventions include singular and plural nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verb tenses, conjunctions, and prepositions. Students produce varied simple and compound sentences. First graders capitalize dates and names of people, use end punctuation, use commas in dates and in a series, and begins to use conventional spelling for words with common spelling patterns.

Second Grade

Students in second grade build upon previous learning to make connections with new knowledge.  Literary communities are developed over the course of the school year to facilitate children’s ability to think more deeply about the texts they read and write.  Second grade students recount stories from diverse cultures, including fables and folk tales, which teach a moral or lesson. Character traits are explored in reading and in writing; story structures are developed through multiple scenes and the building of tension. Students compare and contrast two or more versions of the same classic tales. 

Second graders begin to read longer texts with multiple paragraphs and identify the focus or main topic. In nonfiction texts, students make connections between concepts, a series of events, or steps in a procedure. Students expand their knowledge of text features to include captions, bold print, subheadings, diagrams and subject specific vocabulary. Readers identify the author's purpose and compare and contrast text on the same topic.

In second grade there is a focus on word analysis skills for decoding words. Common vowel teams, common prefixes and suffixes, and two syllable words with short and long vowels are studied. In addition, students expand their ability to read and spell high frequency words. Students continue to refine their fluency skills and self-monitoring strategies.  

During writing workshop, students participate in shared research and writing projects, in addition to opinion pieces, informative/explanatory texts, and narratives explored in previous years. Students strengthen their writing through revising and editing. Through partnerships and book clubs, students practice collaborative conversations by following agreed upon rules for discussion, building on another's remarks, and asking for further explanation. 

In grade two, students expand their use of conventions of capitalization, punctuation, and spelling in writing. Students learn to capitalize proper nouns, use commas in letter greetings and closings, and use apostrophes to form contractions and possessives. Usage of collective nouns, irregular plurals, reflexive pronouns, irregular past tense verbs, adjectives and adverbs are studied. Students enhance simple and compound sentences by expanding and rearranging phrases. Students make connections to learned spelling patterns when writing and consult reference materials to check spelling.

Using an array of strategies such as context clues, knowledge of root words, affixes, and an understanding of compound words strengthens vocabulary. Students make real life connections between words, their use and meaning.

Third Grade

Third grade students expand and refine previously learned skills in a literacy rich environment. Students are asked to support their answers to questions by providing evidence from the text. A literal understanding of text along with inferential thinking enables students to determine the central message, motivations and feelings of characters. Students are encouraged to express their own point of view when reading narrative textsAs text selections increase in length, students support their understandings by referring to previous chapters, scenes or stanzas. Through author studies, students compare and contrast story elements with a focus on theme.  Students make connections between concepts, a series of events, or steps in a procedure using cause and effect relationships. Students make connections between two texts on the same topic by comparing and contrasting.

In word study, students explore syllable types and division patterns, review and learn new vowel sounds, practice spelling rules for adding suffixes, expand on their learning of prefixes and suffixes, and apply previously learned word study principles to decode multi-syllable words. Students hone their fluency skills through reader's theater and poetry. 

In opinion pieces, students write persuasively to appeal for change outside of themselves.  Students introduce their point of view, provide reasons and research to support their opinion, and provide closure. Third graders also research and develop a topic with facts, definitions, and other non fiction text features to write informative/explanatory texts. Students enhance their skill in writing narratives by including dialogue and descriptive details of characters' actions, thoughts and feelings. Third grade students move toward independence in planning, revising and editing through teacher and peer conferences. 

Students engage in one-to-one, group and teacher lead discussions to develop skill in explaining  their own ideas and understandings. Agreed upon rules for discussion are followed as students learn to appropriately link their comments to the remarks of others. 

In addition to previously learned grammar conventions, instruction includes subject-verb agreement, comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs and the use of complex sentences.  Students will use conventions for capitals in titles, commas in addresses, commas and quotation marks in dialogue, and the proper use of possessives. As students move through developmental spelling stages, instruction in syllable patterns, ending rules and meaningful word parts are presented.

Using an array of strategies such as context clues, knowledge of root words, affixes, and an understanding of compound words strengthen vocabulary. Students make real life connections between words, their use and meaning. 

Fourth Grade

Fourth grade students begin to deepen their understanding of how explicit details in a text help them to draw inferences in a story, a drama, or a poem. They move from understanding the central message to determining theme, which is demonstrated through succinctly summarizing the text. They compare and contrast themes and topics from various genres. Students reflect on the thoughts, words, and actions of characters. They compare and contrast the point of view of stories narrated in first- and third- person. Word meaning vocabulary is further developed through various genres, so that students can compare various points of view.  They explore the structural elements of poems and drama, and prose through writing or speaking about a text. Grade four students explore informational texts by explaining the main idea and key details. By the end of fourth grade, students apply their knowledge of nonfiction text features (graphs, diagrams, time lines, etc.) to interpret information and further their understanding of historical, scientific, and technical text. 

In grade four, students are applying and transferring their knowledge of syllabication patterns, prefixes, and suffixes, when attempting to read and write unknown multisyllabic words in and out of context. Instruction supports an increasing vocabulary with the study of Greek and Latin roots. They become aware of the elements of fluency and how fluent reading raises the level of comprehension. 

Fourth grade students write opinion and informative texts with a focus on conveying ideas and information clearly.  They do this by grouping related information in paragraphs or sections. Students develop topics with concrete details, research, definitions, and/or quotations. Students are encouraged to use precise language and specific vocabulary to explain a topic.  Opinion pieces, such as a personal and literary essay, allow students to convey a theory or claim about a topic and support it with evidence. Concluding statements relate to the information presented. Writers in fourth grade expand on their abilities to write narratives by continuing to establish the sequence of the story, using dialogue, transitional words, and phrases while adding sensory details. Students use the steps of the writing process to strengthen their writing with guidance and support from peers and adults when planning, revising and editing.  Students research various aspects of a topic using technology. They take notes and categorize information in order to support their research.

Students are building on others’ ideas and linking their remarks during collaborative discussions and pose questions to clarify their understanding.  Using technology students add visual displays to enhance main ideas or themes.

In fourth grade, students add to their knowledge of English grammar and conventions by using relative pronouns, progressive verbs, prepositional phrases, recognizing fragments and run-ons.  Students continue to refine punctuating dialogue. Students use context, common grade appropriate Greek and Latin affixes and roots, and reference materials to determine the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words.  Vocabulary instruction explores the nuances of word meanings through similes, metaphors, idioms, antonyms, and synonyms. This instruction encourages students to expand word choice so as to convey precise actions and emotions.

Fifth Grade

In fifth grade, text complexity increases and requires greater demands on readers. Fifth grade students are required to interpret and analyze both literature and informational texts. They must by determine multiple main ideas, relationships and interactions between two or more individuals, events and concepts. Fifth grade students accurately quote from a text to help them draw inferences from various genres. They compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, events and story themes or topics. Students understand the use of figurative language and how it influences the description of setting, story events and characters. They explain how the chapters, scenes or stanzas provide the structure of a story or a poem. Students explain how an author uses evidence to support points. 

In grade five, students become more independent in their application and transfer of syllabication patterns, and knowledge of advanced prefixes and suffixes when attempting to read and write unknown multisyllabic words in and out of context. They learn additional Greek and Latin roots to support vocabulary acquisition and comprehension. Students continue to strive for greater fluency. 

Fifth grade students continue to write opinion, informative/explanatory texts with a focus on conveying ideas and information clearly. They now focus on providing logically grouped reasons and ideas to support a stance supported with reasons and examples.  Students expand their use of narrative techniques, such a dialogue, description, and pacing to develop events or to angle their writing for the reader’s understanding. Fifth grader writers compare themes across multiple texts through a literary essay to develop commonalities and deeper understanding of an author’s message. Students link ideas within and across categories of information or to sequence events using words, phrases and clauses such as in contrast, and especially. Writers continue to use sensory words/specific vocabulary and to provide conclusions that follow the structure of the genre.

By the end of fifth grade the goal is to produce clear coherent writing that utilizes the writing process taking into account the five lenses of writing: meaning and significance, structure, focus, elaboration and conventions.  In addition to the previously taught strategies of planning, revising, editing and rewriting students try new approaches to improve their writing. Opportunities to conduct research projects continue by having students use multiple sources of information as they learn to take notes, paraphrase and summarize relevant information.

The conventions of English grammar and usage in writing and speaking broaden to include the function of conjunctions, prepositions, interjections, and correct shifts in verb tense.  Students correctly use commas to separate items in a series as well as introductory elements from the rest of the sentence. Writers appropriately use punctuation to indicate titles of works.  Writers learn to expand, combine and reduce sentences for meaning and style. Vocabulary instruction continues to provide students with opportunities to determine or clarify the meaning of unknown words and multiple-meaning words by flexibility choosing from a range of strategies. Interpretation of figurative language, idioms, adages, proverbs, word relationships and nuances in word meanings are developed by studying grade appropriate general academic and domain specific vocabulary. 

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