The middle school’s innovative literacy curriculum combines reading and writing to strengthen learning in both disciplines. Small cross-graded groups of two to seven students attend literacy classes four times a week for seventy-five minutes and once a week for forty-five minutes. Our students’ reading levels range widely; therefore, they make more progress when grouped with students who have similar struggles and strengths rather than by grade. Groups may consist of sixth and seventh graders or seventh and eighth graders, but never sixth and eighth graders. The small class size permits the literacy teacher to individualize instruction to meet the needs of every student.
Students learn decoding, encoding, comprehension, vocabulary development, and the mechanics of writing from sentence structure to research papers. Teachers draw on many programs, including Wilson, Scientific Spelling, PAF, and Judy Hochman’s Teaching Basic Writing Skills, a structured, sequential program that links writing to the process of language. Technology such as voice-activated software and audio books makes it possible for students who struggle with decoding to participate at their comprehension levels.
As students explore several literary genres throughout the year, they are involved in a variety of writing projects including poems, book reports, research projects, and fiction and expository writings. Writing is interdisciplinary at our middle school; writing assignments from other subjects, such as history research papers, are written and edited in literacy class.