Academic Excellence and Balanced Literacy
Genesee Hill School is committed to academic excellence for every child. Our data demonstrate our success in academic achievement, but that only tells a part of the story. The real heart of our academic excellence is found in a blend of taking a balanced academic approach, committing to each individual child and motivating all students to meet high standards. Our commitment ensures that students experience hands-on integrated learning with solid development of foundational skills
Reading and writing at Genesee Hill is based on a Balanced Literacy model whereby students engage in and interact with word work (spelling and vocabulary development), instructional read alouds, shared reading, independent and partner reading, grammar, and writing every day.
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We are progressing towards the use of the Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop framework for the teaching of Reading and Writing at all grade levels. The Reader’s Workshop model consists of a combination of learning opportunities that benefit all students as each student starts at their own reading level and progresses at an individualized pace. Lessons typically include: whole group instruction which may have a shared reading experience or a mini-lesson targeting a specific skill, guided reading groups and independent reading, one-on-one (or small group-based) conferences with the teacher that focus on the student’s individual needs, and a closing meeting when the whole class comes together to share or reflect on the day’s lesson. Reading material is varied and includes fiction and non-fiction. All students read “just-right” books which are books that are on their individual reading level. Frequently, read-alouds connect to a Social Studies or Science theme or set the groundwork for writing projects.
The Writer’s Workshop model focuses on individual student growth and ownership of the writing process. Lessons typically start with a whole group mini-lesson in which the teacher frequently shares his or her own writing as they model the daily writing focus (which could be a writing convention, a writing strategy, etc.). Students work as “writers” from selecting their topics, prewriting, drafting, editing, revising to publishing their work. Classes (frequently an entire grade level) will hold a writing celebration to recognize the students’ “published” work. Typically, over the course of the year, students will work through the following units of study: personal narrative, fiction, poetry, and expository writing (such as an “All About…” book or a persuasive essay). Literacy also includes “word work” which is the time for vocabulary development and spelling. Our writers have the opportunity to write on a variety of topics, and for many audiences and purposes–skills they will use throughout their life to explain, to create, and to communicate in the world.
We are very excited that for the upcoming school year we will be working with a staff developer from the Columbia University Teachers’ College to advance our practice.