Friends School’s language arts program aligns with the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) belief that all students must have the opportunities and resources to develop the language skills they need to pursue life goals and to participate fully as informed, productive members of society.
Language arts classes are based on immersion in meaningful activities centered on reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Mixed-age classrooms provide an environment rich in variety and allow students to work at their own levels. Projects that incorporate all the language arts motivate students to learn and integrate their skills and knowledge in a meaningful context.
Friends School Standards
(Adapted from NCTE Standards for English Language Arts)
- Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and to have personal fulfillment.
- Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
- Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- Students use and adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write, and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and non-print texts.
- Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and non-print texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
- Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, DVDs) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
- Students whose first language is not English make use of their first language to develop competency in the English language arts and to develop understanding of content across the curriculum.
- Students make connections between their home experience of language and their experience of language at school. Students are encouraged to use their home language experiences to develop their understanding of the conventions of language and to develop understanding of content across the curriculum.
- Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
To support our language arts curriculum, FSMN’s Gandhi Library seeks to provide a wide range of information services and a diverse collection of materials for our students and staff. We hope to encourage competence and lifelong pleasure in intellectual discovery and in reading. Our collection is based on the curriculum and the interests and needs of our community, and ranges from the classics to current issues.
FSMN is committed to providing a language arts program grounded in Quaker and progressive approaches to education. The program encourages the development of lifelong reading and writing skills and nurtures a joy of reading and writing through student choice and independence. Children learn to read and write in much the same way they learn to talk. This process is encouraged when children see language being used and valued all around them, when they use literature and their own words for learning, and when they feel empowered and competent. Children are encouraged to take responsibility for their learning and are supported in making choices (e.g., book selection, writing topics) to further their understanding of themselves as learners.
Through book selections for student groups, read-alouds, and independent reading FSMN helps students think about multiple perspectives and multiple cultures. As children deepen their understanding and ability to interact with texts, they are encouraged to think more deeply about Friends School’s core values. The middle school language arts program uses the values of justice, equality, peace, and integrity as a yearly focus. Through guiding questions, students explore these values in their reading and writing as well as in their social studies work.
The library program at FSMN affirms that we are a community of learners through its emphasis on reading and language, its advocacy of information literacy and research, the creation of comfortable and welcoming spaces, and its support of the school’s commitment to Quaker the values of diversity, intellectual freedom, and community. The students’ library provides age-appropriate materials and lower school instruction that are integrated into the academic curriculum when possible. In addition to introducing quality literature, we include readings from mythology and legends, books about other countries, poetry, and books that support emergent curriculum. Materials from varied perspectives enrich students’ experiences. We have a significant collection of materials about Quakerism and Quaker values, and carry all of the available children and youth books offered by QuakerBooks through the Friends General Conference.
The teachers’ resource library provides professional development resources for faculty and administration, as well as book sets for book groups. A small but developing parent resource library and the Families All Matter book project allow parents to share our rich resources.
Children are immersed in a language-rich environment and are supported and guided in their early attempts to read and write. Reading, writing, speaking, and listening are integrated across the curriculum.
Students work on writing through the use of the writing process: creating drafts, revising to improve content, editing to check mechanics, and publishing in a variety of forms. Students keep writing journals which serve as sources for writing to publish. Student fiction and nonfiction is published and celebrated in many ways, including by holding poetry readings for families, creating books for each other to read, presenting written work to other classes in the school, writing letters for authentic purposes, and showcasing written research reports.
Reading is emphasized across the curriculum with a gradual change in focus from learning to read to reading for learning. Students participate in literature groups in the classroom, and independent reading is also part of each day. Students are read to and literature is discussed at each grade level. Students are supported in their transition to reading content area texts; they learn reading as well as note-taking strategies. Students also develop skills for critical reading. They examine viewpoint, credibility, and reliability in fiction and nonfiction texts.
In addition to being immersed in a literature-rich environment from which they absorb correct language usage, students work explicitly on a variety of skills including phonics, grammar, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary.
Our language arts program supports numerous goals of diversity and multiculturalism. Literature and authors who represent many cultures, races, and points of view are used in the classroom during read-alouds, in book groups, and in independent reading. Students are taught to critically analyze media messages and non-fiction texts for bias and perspective.
Through teaching, working with faculty and students, and holding varied collections the library program supports the school’s mission and educational program, ensures that students and faculty are effective users of ideas and information, and encourages reading for personal enjoyment and enrichment.
Library staff provide leadership and support to our community of lifelong learners, through print materials, electronic resources, and technology tools. A variety of resources that are accessible to students, faculty, staff, and parents help create a climate of professional and interpersonal exchange which support the mission and philosophy of the school.
Our circulation policies are designed to support students’ developmental needs. Kindergarten students may check out one book per week before winter break, and two books per week afterwards, the second of which is a book to read at home.
Parents are encouraged to know when their child’s library day is, and have a regular spot in the house where FSMN library materials are kept.
First through fourth grade students may check out up to three books for reading and up to six additional books for research. Middle school students may check out eight books. Additional materials may be checked out with special permission from a staff member. All students are trained to check out their own library materials.
Scope and Sequence
Lower School Overview
Reading, writing, listening, and speaking are not taught separately; rather, they are intertwined throughout all of students’ language and curriculum-based theme activities. Mini-lessons in specific elements of language arts are taught individually, in small groups, and to the whole class. Students engage in lessons that enable them to be actively involved in their own learning. Students gain knowledge by exploring, solving problems, and sharing ideas with others. Units, themes, books, and other materials often come from the current interests and passions of students and their teachers. In this way, the curriculum is flexible yet maintains goals and benchmarks of literacy learning.
The program focuses on helping children break the reading code, develop reading strategies, learn how to comprehend an author's text, understand how to be responsive listeners, and become skilled at communicating their own messages and ideas, orally and in writing. The program is designed to develop a love of reading and writing, and to increase stamina and fluency in both areas.
Lower School Library Program
Kindergarten, first, and second grade students make weekly and third and fourth grade students make biweekly group visits to the library to borrow books, listen to literature read aloud, share their observations about books with each other, and learn about the library and its resources. From third grade on, students also use the library individually or in groups as needed to choose books that form the basis of their individual reading instruction, to find books for recreational reading, and to find information. Use of technology associated with library materials, including FSMN software for searching and checking out books, the Internet, and saving work to the server, is introduced as appropriate in each grade.
The goals of the lower school library program are to
- foster love of and competence in reading and scholarship,
- provide a rich variety of resources to support students and teachers in their learning activities,
- help students define their reading interests, preferences, and information needs,
- model search strategies that will lead students to the materials and information they seek,
- teach the mechanics of library usage and research,
- provide opportunities for children to practice responsible use of a common resource,
- reflect the principles and concerns of Friends, both in the library's resources and in its practices, and
- provide an introduction to the use of electronic resources.
Kindergarten Scope and Sequence, Language Arts
- Shared Reading/Read Aloud. The teacher reads a story to the class as children listen. The teacher often incorporates instructional strategies into the discussion of the book.
- Guided Reading. Children meet in small groups with the teacher, who helps them apply and develop reading strategies as they interact independently with a text.
- Partner Reading. Children enjoy stories with grade-level and older buddy partners.
- Responses to Literature. Children talk, draw, write, and engage in dramatic and artistic activities in response to stories.
- Independent Reading. Children enjoy books of their own choosing.
- Journal Writing. Children draw and write in a variety of journals. Independence, storytelling through pictures, and invented spelling are encouraged.
- Story Workshop. Rich materials (art materials, drama props, blocks, et cetera) are used to engage children in story creation of personal narratives and fiction.
- Story Congress. Students share both spoken and written work from Story Workshop. Students receive feedback from peers and adults in the form of comments, compliments, and questions which support the author’s story development.
- Handwriting. Handwriting is taught using the Handwriting Without Tears program. Emphasis is on accurate formation of upper and lowercase letters.
- Phonics. Letter/sound relationships are explored through texts and literature, as well as through direct instruction in phonics with teacher-led games and small group lessons.
- Dictation. Children dictate a variety of forms of writing to adults and older children to record their thoughts in writing.
- Library. Library time for the kindergarten classroom is thirty minutes, and is designed to encourage reading literacy. The librarian chooses a picture book to read aloud to students based on group student interest in the topic, the quality of the story and/or illustrations, the length of the book, and the content (usually reflecting diversity and Quaker values). The first ten to fifteen minutes of library time includes this read-aloud and student responses to it. During the remaining time, children search for personal library books and check them out independently, with adult assistance as needed. The librarian is available during this time to help students locate books that interest them, and for reference services.
First and Second Grade Scope and Sequence
- Reading Strategy Instruction. Curriculum includes whole-group, small-group and individual instruction in comprehension, accuracy, fluency, and expanding vocabulary (inspired by Boushey and Moser’s CAFÉ).
- Reading Across the Curriculum.
- Shared Reading. The teacher reads aloud a story chosen to incorporate instructional strategies into class discussion of the book.
- Guided Reading. Children meet in small groups with the teacher, who helps them to apply and develop reading strategies as they interact independently with a text.
- Read-Aloud. The teacher reads a literature selection as children listen. Reading comprehension strategies are modeled and practiced, and connections are drawn among character, plot, setting, theme, voice, et cetera.
- Literacy Choices. Children work in Boushey and Moser’s Daily Five-inspired areas of Read to Self, Partner Reading, Word Work, Work on Writing, and Listen to Reading.
- Independent Reading. Children read books of their own choosing. This is daily time when children read on their own to help build stamina and fluency.
- Individual Reading Conferences. The teacher meets with students in individual reading conferences to check on their independent reading and to work with them on reading strategies.
- Handwriting. Handwriting is taught using the Handwriting Without Tears program. We emphasize accurate formation of upper and lowercase letters, spaces between words, basic capitalization, and punctuation.
- Phonics. Instruction and practice of letter/sound relationships occurs in the context of texts and literature studied, as well as through direct instruction in phonics and the use of phonics workbooks.
- Writers' Workshop. Children work on both self- and teacher-selected writing topics to introduce them to the stages of a Lucy Calkins-inspired writing process which includes pre-writing/brainstorming, writing first drafts, conferencing with their peers then an adult, revising, editing/proof reading, and creating final works.
- Mini-lessons. Writing skills are taught during mini-lessons as well as through editing conferences with teachers.
- Student Exploration. Students explore writing in many genres including personal narrative, non-fiction, poetry, and stories.
- Spelling. Children acquire spelling skills and strategies through phonics instruction, introduction to word families, and word walls. In second grade, this is expanded to include spelling lists, weekly tests, and other activities which teach the spelling of commonly used words.
- Library. Library time lasts thirty minutes for the first and second grade classrooms. The librarian shares a book with the students and elicits reactions for the first ten to fifteen minutes. Book talks by the librarian and students are also introduced at this level, along with beginning training in electronic catalog searching. The remaining time is used for students to search the library for books and check them out independently, with adult assistance as needed. The librarian is available to provide readers’ advisory and reference services during this time.
Third and Fourth Grade Scope and Sequence
- Reading. Students continue to build reading strategies through guided reading of fiction and nonfiction works including chapter books, short stories, textbooks, poetry, articles, picture books, and research materials. Students participate in small group discussions to improve their ability to synthesize, summarize, make predictions, and support their opinions.
- Read-Aloud. Reading books aloud continues to be important. Teachers choose books in conjunction with topics taught in the science and social studies curricula, and read them aloud to the class. Books can also be chosen by student request or to supplement the current interest or project work of the classroom. Literacy skills such as identifying plot, character, motivation, setting, theme, and point of view are reinforced through frequent discussions during read-aloud time.
- Independent Reading. As part of their homework, students read independently for twenty minutes each night. Twenty minutes of each school day is also set aside for independent reading during DEAR (Drop Everything And Read). Students are encouraged to choose books at their reading level to read for pleasure.
- Book Groups. Students read a variety of books which may be related to social studies topics or themes. They have assignments for each book group meeting through which they continue to practice literacy skills. They also practice small-group skills such as listening, expressing an opinion, discussing ideas respectfully, taking turns, consideration for others, attempting to understand others’ point of view, collaboration, and cooperation.
- Writing Workshop. Students use the writing process of pre-writing/planning, drafts, revision, peer and teacher editing, and publishing final drafts. Written work may include poetry, letter writing, fiction, nonfiction, response to literature, and research reports. Students actively participate in developing and writing their contribution to the annual, school-wide, Martin Luther King performance, and the annual third/fourth grade play produced in the spring.
- Presentation Skills. Students are encouraged to read their work aloud to the class frequently. They receive feedback from classmates and teachers about their pacing, enunciation, clarity, voice projection and modulation, body language, eye contact, confidence, et cetera. They demonstrate and build these skills through many venues—Poetry Cafe, the MLK Celebration, the third/fourth grade play, research presentations, PowerPoint presentations, and other opportunities—throughout the school year.
- Mini-lessons. Writing skills are taught during whole class mini-lessons in conjunction with students’ journal work, and through editing conferences with teachers.
- Journals. Students complete both free-topic and assigned reflections in their homework journals.
- Handwriting. Cursive handwriting is taught using the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum. Students are often, but not always, expected to handwrite all pre-writing, planning, and first drafts of their written work.
- Spelling and Vocabulary Development. Students use spelling workbooks to study words and word patterns and to examine and practice spelling rules. Weekly spelling lists are created from the workbook unit lists and from words that students misspell in their homework journals and other written work. Students are expected to write in their journals a complete sentence for each spelling word. They also have weekly spelling tests.
- Library. Library time lasts forty-five minutes for third and fourth grade students, who meet every other week. The first twenty-five to thirty-five minutes are used for the librarian to share a lesson with and elicit reactions from the students. Students use the remaining ten to twenty minutes to search the library for books and check them out independently. They can also check out books independently during DEAR time.
Library and reading literacy are enhanced by lessons on such topics as student book talks, librarian book talks, the parts of a book, newspapers and magazines, art and illustrations with an artist and/or author focus, reference materials exploration (including geography and maps), poetry, and non-fiction.
Middle School Overview
In middle school, language arts and social studies are integrated into the humanities curriculum. The humanities program organizes the topics students study around four of the Quaker values—peace, justice, equality, and integrity. Each year, reading, writing, and social studies are approached and studied through the lens of one value and its corresponding guiding questions. Each year also focuses on specific reading and writing genres through assigned reading and writing activities. Students explore genres of their choice through their independent book choices and free-choice writing pieces.
FSMN does not have a formal middle school library program. Middle school students have access to the library throughout the school day to search for materials supporting class work and personal interest. The librarian responds to humanities and other teacher recommendations to build the collection in areas that are relevant to middle school. FSMN has a substantial collection of contemporary young adult literature.
Fifth and Sixth Grade Values, Guiding Questions, and Genre Studies
- Guiding Questions. How does understanding of and experience with people of other cultures impact the way we think of and interact with them? How and why do ideas about equality differ within and between cultures? How far should people go for freedom and equality?
- Genres. Biography and memoir
- Guiding Questions. How do people decide what is just? How do societies organize themselves to be just?
- Genre. Historical fiction
Seventh and Eighth Grade Values, Guiding Questions, and Genre Studies
- Guiding Questions. How do you create peace? How do groups and governments deal with conflict? How do you advocate for change in a peaceful way?
- Genres. Drama (Shakespeare), technical writing (through Science Fair), poetry, and spoken word
- Guiding Questions. How have societies changed by interaction with other societies? How do I keep my values when confronted by counter values? How do people decide when and how to take a stand?
- Genres. Essay, short story, expository writing (through History Day)
Middle School Scope and Sequence
- Writing Workshop. Students use the writing process of drafts, revision, and peer editing, and publish two to four pieces per semester.
- Journals. Students complete both free writing and assigned reflections in their journals.
- Spelling and Vocabulary Development. Students keep track of their own personal spelling lists and are tested regularly. Students learn about patterns in spelling, roots, prefixes, and suffixes.
- Independent Reading. Students read independently for thirty minutes each night. Time for independent reading is also set aside during class.
- Book Groups. Students read a variety of books related to our genre, social studies topics, or theme. Students have assignments in addition to the reading for each book group meeting.
By the end of kindergarten, students should have competence as follows:
- understand that print conveys meaning
- understand how print is organized and read
- create mental images from pictures and stories read aloud
- have awareness of common letter/sound relationships
- use pictures, symbols, and/or letters to convey meaning
- dictate descriptions of drawings, familiar persons, places, objects or
- dictate a logical sequence of events
- use appropriate writing stance and pencil grip
- make contributions to class meetings and discussions, such as recounting personal experiences
- follow patterns of conversation such as taking turns, raising hand to speak in group, focusing on the speaker
- listen and respond to oral directions
- listen to and recite familiar poems, songs, and rhymes
By the end of second grade, students should have competence as follows:
- decode unknown words using elements of phonics
- use context cues appropriate to reading level
- read familiar text orally with expression
- identify setting, main characters, main idea, and problems in stories
- relate reading to personal experience
- make simple inferences and predictions
- have a growing sight word vocabulary
- respond to literature through discussion and projects
- retell information and storyline from fiction and nonfiction texts
- use the writing process to plan, draft, revise, edit, and publish written work
- use prewriting to generate ideas, discussions, and verbal rehearsal of ideas
- edit their own work for punctuation, capitalization, and complete sentences; incorporate illustrations; publish and share a finished product
- write in response to literature
- use declarative and interrogative sentences
- write in a variety of formats (e.g., stories, poetry, information pieces, letters)
- space words and sentences
- make contributions to class meetings and discussion, e.g., recounting personal experiences and adding personal knowledge about a topic
- ask and respond to questions
- initiate and maintain conversations, stay on topic, focus on speaker, take turns
- use different voice level, phrasing, and intonation for different situations, especially during reader’s theater, dramatic performances, and when reading aloud to others
- listen to and retell familiar stories, poems, and rhymes
By the end of fourth grade, students should have competence as follows:
- monitor reading and self-correct
- use context clues appropriate to reading level
- decode unknown words using a variety of cues (context clues, phonics, semantics)
- adjust speed of reading to suit purpose and difficulty of the material
- identify key ideas and support details in text
- make inferences and predictions based on comprehension of material
- recognize elements of genres (story, poetry, non-fiction, letters)
- respond to literature through discussion, projects, and writing
- summarize and paraphrase information found in fiction and nonfiction text
- use the writing process to plan, draft, revise, edit, and publish written work
- use pre-writing tools such as graphic organizers and webs; brainstorm ideas
- edit their own work for spelling of commonly used words, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and paragraphs; select presentation format; incorporate illustrations, charts, and graphs; and publish
- evaluate their own and others’ writing
- use exclamatory and imperative sentences
- write in a variety of styles and formats (e.g., reports, narratives, expressive compositions, literature response, personal letters)
- contribute to group discussions
- ask questions to clarify and seek others’ input
- make some effort to have a clear main point when speaking to others
- share schoolwork orally with the class and other audiences through Poetry Café and dramatic performances throughout the school year
- identify nonverbal cues in conversation
- find reading materials about known favorites using technological tools
- define and use all parts of a book including table of contents, index, glossary, captions, headings, title page, and copyright page
- use reference materials to pursue areas of personal or academic interest
- identify and read poetry
- read independently each day
- gather information from reading and referring to non-fiction books
- use keyword, author, subject, and title searches in an online catalog
- begin to evaluate the quality of information sources, including Internet sources
- record and summarize fiction and non-fiction texts using a variety of methods
- use the Internet to find information on research topics
- cite their sources including author, year, and publishing location
- locate fiction books by alphabetical order
- locate and use a variety of reference materials including thesauruses, atlases, subject encyclopedias, and dictionaries
- search for topics, authors, or keywords using search techniques
- find and check out library materials
- identify book locations using the Dewey Decimal system
By the end of sixth grade, students should have competence as follows:
- read a variety of genres.
- recall the characteristics of various genres, including biography/memoir (equality year), historical fiction (justice year), and poetry
- apply more than one reading strategy for decoding and comprehension, such as asking questions, applying prior knowledge, predicting, visualizing, using context clues, and re-reading
- understand the relationships among elements of fiction including setting, character, plot, conflict, resolution, and theme
- identify the themes in literature and reflect deep reading through writing, questioning, and discussion
- recognize character development through the author’s description of character actions, words, and thoughts
- respond to literature by making connections to self, other texts, and the larger world
- respond to literature by using examples and details from the text to support ideas and reactions
- use the components of non-fiction texts to identify and recall main ideas and details
- be increasingly independent in using the elements of the writing process to improve writing pieces, including seeking and incorporating feedback from others, and making multiple drafts
- be increasingly independent in recognizing the importance and use of revision to improve writing
- recognize the importance of using standard conventions in English in all written work
- capitalize appropriately
- use end punctuation appropriately
- use paragraphs to organize writing (with support from teachers)
- use personal spelling lists and other strategies to improve spelling
- recognize features of different genres and attempt to apply them to their own writing, particularly in our focus genres of historical fiction (justice year) and memoir and biography (equality year)
- attempt to use journal writing as a tool to develop writing fluency and creativity and to experiment with different perspectives, styles, and genres
Listening and Speaking
- listen attentively to presenters
- practice expressing opinions and use evidence to support opinions in small and large group discussions
- present work orally in a variety of formats to audiences (with teacher support)
By the end of eighth grade, students should have competence as follows:
- read fluently in a variety of genres
- recognize the characteristics of various genres, including expository writing, essay, and short story (integrity year), drama (Shakespeare), technical writing, poetry, and spoken word (peace year)
- apply a variety of reading strategies for decoding and comprehension, such as asking questions, applying prior knowledge, predicting, visualizing, using context clues, and re-reading
- analyze the relationships among elements of fiction including setting, character, plot, conflict, resolution, and theme
- express deep reading and an understanding of literature and its themes through writing, questioning, and discussion
- analyze a character’s traits, emotions, or motivation, and give supporting evidence from the text to support analysis
- respond to literature in depth by using ideas and details from the text to support reactions and make literary connections
- make inferences and draw conclusions based on explicit and implied information from texts
- recognize bias and perspective in a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts
- show comprehension of non-fiction text by summarizing and paraphrasing main ideas and supporting details
- understand their own writing process and use steps to improve the clarity and impact of writing
- employ a variety of strategies for revision
- edit final drafts for mechanics errors
- capitalize appropriately
- use punctuation appropriately
- use paragraphs to organize writing
- vary sentence structure and recognize run-on sentences and fragments in own writing
- adjust writing for different audiences
- use personal spelling list and other strategies to improve spelling
- apply the different features of genres to own writing, particularly in focus genres of expository writing, essay, and short story (integrity year), technical writing, poetry, and spoken word (peace year)
- use thesis statements to organize formal writing
- understand how to cite sources in a text and how to create a bibliography
- consistently use journal writing as a tool to develop writing fluency and creativity and to experiment with different perspectives, styles, and genres
Listening and Speaking
- listen attentively to and interact with presenters
- express opinions clearly and with increasing fluency in small and large group discussions
- coherently use multiple examples and evidence to support verbal explanations
- present work orally in a variety of formats to audiences
- lead class discussions on a variety of topics