Overview of the White Plains K-5 ELA Program
The White Plains City School District is committed to producing graduates who will achieve success in college, careers, and personal endeavors. One of the cornerstones of this success is that students will achieve a high standard of literacy in order to become effective communicators, problem solvers, and thinkers. The goal of our elementary K-5 English Language Arts program is to develop strong readers and thinkers who effectively express their ideas in speaking and writing. We use a balanced approach to literacy instruction throughout the elementary grades, with differentiation to meet the needs of the diverse learners who enter our schools. Curriculum goals and instructional timelines are established districtwide and common assessments are used throughout the five elementary schools. Similar instructional approaches and materials are used district-wide, adapted by teachers to meet the individualized learning needs of the students in their classrooms.
Over the past few years, the White Plains School District has used the New York State Common Core Standards as a guide for the development and refinement of our English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum. Changes to our instructional practices have included: providing students with a balance of fiction and non-fiction reading opportunities; an emphasis on using reading to learn about the world; providing all students with more challenging reading and writing experiences; encouraging student discussion about text and supporting arguments with text-based evidence; and increasing students' ability to understand and use academic vocabulary. In addition, we revised our existing reading and writing units of study, and created or adopted new units that better teach the range of comprehension and writing skills that the Common Core Standards require. Our teaching practices continue to evolve to reflect the best and most current research about how students learn to read and how to meet the needs of diverse learners.
A balanced literacy program is one in which students are guided toward proficient reading and writing skills through a combination of whole-group instruction, targeted small group instruction, and independent practice. Our goal is that all students will be reading on grade level by the end of second grade, and will continue to learn about the world through reading as they progress through the upper elementary grades and beyond. An equally important goal is to foster a love of reading in our students so that they develop lifelong literacy habits. In a classroom utilizing a balanced approach to literacy, students will have opportunities to listen to books read aloud by their teacher, receive whole group instruction in a particular reading or writing skill, practice applying skills through independent reading and writing, and be further supported in their literacy growth through small group instruction or by working with student partners. In our classrooms, students are also instructed in a structured, sequential word work program in order to develop foundational reading and spelling skills. Balanced literacy instruction occurs in classrooms with well-stocked classroom libraries that contain a variety of fiction and nonfiction resources and allow students to be matched with texts at their individual reading levels. Many teachers also use technology tools to enhance the students' literacy experiences.