Lower School Language Arts seeks to cultivate students’ love of language and build their skills in critical thinking and written/oral communication. Throughout the grade levels, students are immersed in print and literature-rich environments, with both direct and indirect instruction as they move from global to analytic processing, learn to link specific sounds with specific symbols, and progress from context-driven to print-driven reading. Special attention is given to building phonemic awareness, phonics decoding skills, reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.  
 
In ECD through Grade 2 the primary purpose of Language Arts instruction is to guide students through the predictable stages of reading, spelling, and writing acquisition in a manner that is developmentally appropriate, research-based, multi-sensory, and fun. Students discover many facets of the world around them by daily listening to read-alouds of fiction and nonfiction. Songs, rhymes, finger­play, and picture books play leading roles in ECD and Kindergarten, while independent and shared reading experiences expand the program in Grades 1 and 2. 
 
Upper elementary grade levels are organized around the overlapping and mutually reinforcing skill areas of reading, writing, vocabulary, and speech. Students are exposed to a broadening base of fiction and nonfiction texts as students become better readers and start to read to understand the world. While examining more challenging fiction works, students begin to examine and compare character traits. As they make connections and host discussions about characters, students are encouraged to be analytical thinkers. Admirable values such as being open­-minded, trustworthy, responsible and sincere are reinforced during discussions of novels and short stories. As students progress through the Lower School there is a shift from “learning to read” and “learning to write,” to “reading to learn” and “writing to learn.”
 
Kindergarten through fifth grade students use the Junior Great Book series, a program that builds reading comprehension, writing, and critical thinking skills. The reading selections are drawn from world literature, and the reading, writing, and discussion activities promote inquiry skills and increase student engagement with literature. In Kindergarten through second grade, the teachers use Junior Great Books in conjunction with Reading Street, a phonics-based program that develops foundational reading skills. In third through fifth grade, the teachers use Junior Great Books alongside their novels to hone in on comprehension strategies, literary response, and critical thinking processes. The students become stronger and more thoughtful readers who learn how to engage with text and with one another through inquiry-based discussions.  
 
In addition to ongoing classroom assessments, the Fountas and Pinnell reading assessment program is used three times throughout the year to measure student progress in reading. Students read a fiction story with their teacher and then answer a series of comprehension questions about the story orally. This assessment helps to determine instructional and independent reading levels.    
 
For writing instruction, the Lower School teachers use a research-based teaching approach, Units of Study in Writing from Columbia University Teachers College. Units of Study brings a unified scope and sequence to teaching writing, as well as building vital skills, teaching children not only learn how to write but also to fall in love with writing. The Units of Study program provides sequential work in opinion/argument, information, and narrative writing; opportunities for repeated writing practice; renewed attention to writing about reading and writing across the curriculum; and a responsive process approach to writing instruction.
 
At each grade level, at least one unit of study is devoted to each of the three kinds of writing. Students write multiple pieces of each kind of writing (opinion/argument, information, and narrative), with the repeated practice helping to escalate their expectations. The units have strong emphasis on close reading, text-based questioning, and on reading like a writer.
 
Students also benefit from explicit handwriting instruction (“Handwriting without Tears”) in ECD through third grade, which moves progressively from writing readiness in Early Childhood to print in Kindergarten through second grade and cursive in the latter part of second grade and third grade.
 
Speaking and listening skills are integrated throughout the Lower School Language Arts program, and each student finds his or her unique voice through participation in class discussions, presentations, debates, public speaking opportunities, and performances.

List of 7 items.

  • Early Childhood 3s and 4s

    Speaking / Listening
    Students in the 3s/4s program are learning the fundamental aspects of language acquisition and expression: how to talk to and with each other. This process is explicitly taught through classroom Circle and Morning Meeting times and through the Responsive Classroom approach. Letter of the Week and Sounds in Motion are specific language activities that facilitate an awareness and recognition of phonemic sounds. Each week there is explicit guided instruction in the sound and symbol relationship between each letter explored. 
     
    Reading
    Students are developing a stronger sense of being a “reader” through the exposure of a varied genre of books that include fiction and non-fiction texts appropriate to the pre-kindergarten classroom setting. They engage in phonemic and letter awareness training through daily explicit instruction that supports the students efforts in making secure connections between letters and sounds, recognizing directionality of print and that print has meaning There are daily read-alouds facilitated by the teachers that use interactive, shared and dialogic reading strategies. This may mean “Tell us what you notice on the cover of this book,” or “This is a story about a leaf,” to “What might happen next with the third little pig?” They are encouraged to be highly involved in the reading process. Books centers are curated with purpose and intention to invite children to interact with literature in meaningful ways. 
     
    Writing
    Pre-writing is taught in the 3s/4s setting through the encouragement of drawing pictures. Illustrations are expressions of their thoughts; these thoughts become words. Students engage in making marks on paper that are purposeful scribbles that over time become more visually articulated into letters and letter-like forms. A wide range of opportunities are provided to support the writing process in the classroom that may include play activities like “Park your car here!” signs in the block area or “This is a home for babies” in a dramatic play center. Children are learning that print has meaning. In addition, we use the “Get Set for School” curriculum through Handwriting Without Tears to teach students how to form letters and numbers.
  • Kindergarten

    Speaking / Listening
    The students are engaged in daily one-on-one and whole class discussions about what we are learning. After listening to our book of the week, the students listen and speak about various comprehension skills (character, setting, and plot). They practice speaking etiquette such as facing the speaker when listen, and asking the speaker for questions to clarify information. To develop oral vocabulary, the students have a concept talk where they discuss the question of the week (What unique thing does a bear do in the winter?). The Kindergarten class also engages in an oral vocabulary routine, which consists of introducing the word, providing examples to show meaning and applying each amazing word of the week in a sentence. The students draw a picture to go along with their sentences. 
     
    Reading
    The Kindergarten Language Arts program introduces students to a variety of skills. These skills include listening, speaking, decoding, phonological awareness, concepts of print, writing, literary responses, comprehension, and vocabulary. We approach these skills through the use of Reading Street, Lucy Calkins, and The Junior Great Books programs. Our curriculum includes students actively engaging through the use of songs, rhyming, discussions, and shared reading from our big books. Our students are encouraged to use context clues to help them decode new words. The use of songs and rhymes help students to develop stronger reading skills by engaging the students in a fun and interactive way.
     
    Writing
    Our writing program includes opinion, information, and narrative writing.  The students actively engage in writing workshops where they work collaboratively with their peers and teachers to understand how to think up a topic, draw it, and then to do their best approximation of writing.
     
    Building on the handwriting work that the students complete in ECD, Kindergarten also uses the Handwriting Without Tears program and connect building, music and movement, and imaginary play to help students learn how to properly write capital and lowercase letters, and numbers.  Each letter and number has a language that the students are expected to say out loud as they are writing, which helps them remember the proper way to form each one. When building, students use different sized wood pieces to learn size, shape, and position concepts. Once they are ready, they use the wood pieces to build letters.  For example: When forming the capital letter B, the students use a Big Line + a Little Curve + another Little Curve.  This is also the language that the students use when writing their letters.
  • First Grade

    Speaking / Listening
    Respectful listening behaviors and effective speaking skills are taught and practiced throughout the school day in first grade. During whole group discussions, for example, students are encouraged to share connections from their own personal experiences: while one student models being a “good speaker” by standing in front of the group and speaking loudly and clearly, the others are encouraged to act like “good listeners” by sitting in a respectful manner, looking at the speaker, and holding questions or comments until after the speaker has finished. First graders also hone their speaking and listening skills by learning to work cooperatively with others in small groups and partnerships to achieve shared goals or solve problems. Class presentations during Lower School assemblies, as well as curriculum-based celebrations such as World Day or Science Fair provide further structured opportunities for students to improve their public speaking confidence and skills. 
     
    Reading
    Reading instruction takes center stage throughout the first grade year. The curriculum encompasses oral language development, vocabulary knowledge, phonemic awareness, phonics, decodable texts, and fluency practice. Students receive explicit instruction in both small and whole-group settings and engage in shared and independent readings of leveled books and children’s literature. In addition, comprehension strategies are taught through guided readings in a range of genres, including fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, and recognition of basic literary elements, such as story sequence, character, plot and setting. Literacy is reinforced throughout the academic day in connection with math, science, and social studies lessons. Last but not least, a love of reading is nurtured through book sharing, teacher read-alouds, read-to-self time, and discussions of books read at home.  
     
    Writing
    The approach to writing in first grade is two-fold. Goal number one is to build each child’s self-image as a writer. This is achieved through a Writer’s Workshop approach that teaches students how to develop writing ideas, plan the beginning, middle, and end of a work before beginning to write, and produce a first draft that focuses on telling the story rather than using perfect spelling or penmanship. Through mini-lessons and modeling, students earn revision strategies that will enable them to better inform or entertain their future readers. Final “published” versions of student stories are then shared in public forums. The second writing goal in first grade is improving the mechanics of writing. Grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure are taught through explicit instruction during Language Arts periods. First graders learn the difference between nouns, proper nouns, verbs, and adjectives. In addition, they are taught when and how to use plurals, contractions, conjunctions, and various forms of punctuation. Students gain ongoing practice in writing complete sentences that are not only grammatically correct, but also make sense. Students also learn correct letter formation through explicit instruction and practice.
  • Second Grade

    Speaking / Listening
    Second grade students further develop their speaking and listening skills in second grade daily, in whole class, small group and one-to-one practice conversations with the teachers. They are more attentive to listening for information and understanding, as well as literary response and expression. Their vocabulary expands significantly as they move into second grade, and the students have increased opportunities to orally present their work in class. They are often eager and able to share at greater lengths in both verbal and written communication. Second graders also have the opportunity to develop speaking and listening skills during special class meetings, such as Morning Meetings, which helps set the tone for respectful and engaged learning.
     
    Reading
    Students enter second grade with a strong base in the five components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. There can be a wide range of reading skills, abilities and experiences at this age. Some second graders are reading to learn, while others need increased instructional and practice time for decoding, fluency and demonstrating the distinction among comprehension skills and strategies to become stronger independent readers. The teaching approach includes whole class, small group/guided reading, and opportunities to increase their stamina as independent readers. Resources for differentiated practice at various instructional levels are used to help students achieve their reading goals. We aim to foster a love of reading and an interest in a variety of genres. A supplemental children’s literature-based reading program called Junior Great Books is used to further help develop critical-thinking and listening skills. In their oral and written responses, they learn to express themselves more clearly and examine more complex ideas through discussion. 
     
    Writing
    In second grade, Writing Workshop is all about developing a love of writing and developing the sense that writing can be creative and fun. Students are introduced to a variety of writing units of study in Opinion, Information, Narrative Writing and Poetry. Mentor texts are used throughout the curriculum in order to offer students a range of writing styles to support them as they develop their writing skills. Through our writing curriculum, students gain confidence in their writing and are encouraged to get their words out on paper in order to create meaningful stories. Students learn and use a variety of paper choices throughout all genres of writing, which supports with their academic choice and differentiated learning styles. In Writing Workshop, students are set up with writing folders and special writing utensils. Students gain a deeper appreciation of writing through mini-lessons, teacher and peer conferences and learning that writers come up with stories at every moment in their lives. 
     
    Second graders move through the writing process of brainstorming (pre-write), drafting, revising, editing and publishing for all of their stories. Through each stage of the process, students receive consistent feedback with a compliment, teaching point and independent practice to develop their writing. Celebrating student writing through Publishing Parties is another component of our writing curriculum for students to share their writing. A wide variety of writing of experiences are provided for students including journal writing, stories, poems, handwriting, and expository pieces.
  • Third Grade

    Speaking / Listening
    As third graders become active learners, it is important for them to listen and communicate thoughtfully and effectively. Class discussions and cooperative learning activities provide opportunities for students to practice conversational turn-taking and asking and answering questions purposefully. Third grade students are prompted to listen actively and ask logical questions in order to clarify information to better understand it. Students learn and practice strategies for internalizing and following multi-step directions and complex oral language. When sharing or presenting information, students practice delivering information in a logical sequence, using precise wording, and including relevant detail to express their thoughts clearly. Third graders are exposed to rich vocabulary across all curricular areas, and are encouraged to use their knowledge of words and meanings to enhance their spoken language.   
     
    Reading
    Third graders at Kew-Forest read for pleasure and for purpose. Our third grade reading program is designed to develop children’s enjoyment of reading, while strengthening their overall understanding of written text. As students continue to read with greater accuracy and fluency, they develop the ability to monitor their comprehension and think critically about reading material. Throughout the year, students are exposed to a variety of genres, including novels and biographies, short stories, non-fiction text, and informational reading material related to Social Studies and Science content. Third graders are actively engaged with reading material via whole class and small group discussions, hands-on projects, and written responses to literature. Students develop the ability to read purposefully as they analyze characters and plots, make inferences based on reading material, and distinguish between main ideas and details in order to accurately summarize what they have read. Reading skills and comprehension strategies are directly taught and modeled during whole class lessons. Students apply these skills further when working with small groups and partners. Guided reading lessons and individual conferences with teachers provide opportunities for differentiated instruction, support, and enrichment based on the student’s individual needs.
     
    Writing
    Writing instruction in third grade focuses on developing ideas, finding a voice, and building stamina, while expressing thoughts clearly and creatively. Students are exposed to and create a range of written forms, such as including personal narratives, persuasive essays, and research-based expository writing. Whole class lessons are designed to maximize participation and enhance understanding of learned skills by providing models of writing conventions in published literature and allowing students to share their own writing with their peers. Mini-lessons focus on organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and presentation of writing. Direct instruction of basic skills of grammar, usage, and mechanics occurs simultaneously. These skills are all applied as students work through the stages of the writing process: generating ideas, using graphic organizers to organize their thoughts, drafting a writing piece, revising and editing their work, and publishing a final draft. Individual conferences with a teacher help students further examine and improve upon their own writing.   Small groups are formed to meet the differentiated needs of students in spelling. Through multi-sensory spelling instruction, students learn to apply phonetic spelling rules and patterns to their written work.
     
    As they develop their own writing styles, third graders become aware that legible handwriting plays an important part in communicating their thoughts. While proper letter formation and spacing of manuscript writing are emphasized, students receive explicit instruction of cursive writing. After a thorough review of writing cursive letters, third graders learn to connect letters to form words. The ideals of shape, size, and spacing are emphasized and practiced to develop proficiency. The children are well-prepared to continue cursive writing into the next few years of Lower School.
     
  • Fourth Grade

    Speaking / Listening
    Listening skills taught in the lower grades continue to be reinforced in fourth grade. Students understand that being a good listener is a valuable life skill. They are taught to use eye contact and to track the speaker to demonstrate that they are engaged in what the speaker is saying.  Exhibiting collaboration and cooperation the fourth graders learn to keep their comments until the speaker has finished demonstrating they are listening with the intent to understand, not just to reply. Hand signals are used when the audience has a connection to the speaker, or wishes to add on to the speaker’s comments. Students are taught to ask confirming or clarifying questions in order to deepen comprehension. Fourth graders learn to speak to their audience by practicing speaking a clear, audible voice. These skills are reinforced through collaborative group work, oral presentations, performing skits and through World Day presentation as well as their Science Fair exhibitions.  Students design and create anchor charts that are used to reinforce these strategies.  
     
    Reading 
    The fourth grade Reading program strives to create a community of readers who read to gather information, understand ideas and enjoy the craft. Similar to the third grade Reading program, students are exposed to a novel-based reading curriculum that reinforces comprehension skills while enhancing critical thinking skills. These novels are chosen based on interest, content, and genre or author. Students are exposed to a variety of genres from poetry and historical fiction to memoir and transactional texts. Resources are also gathered from the Junior Great Books series, Time for Kids, and informational texts taken from both our Science and Social Studies textbooks. By analyzing these resources as a class, individually, in small groups and with partners, students in fourth grade learn how to interpret literature and informational texts. By further developing the understanding of reading skills each week, students have an opportunity to apply these comprehension strategies and skills while independently reading and while working in small groups. Comprehension skills are directly taught and then reinforced with discussions and comprehension questions. Students are grouped with other students who exhibit the same reading level, and then offered an appropriate leveled reading selection. By answering written questions, developing character growth charts and essays, discussing overarching questions, and creating a series of book reports, students are encouraged to understand, analyze and enjoy each and every reading experience in the fourth grade.
     
    Developing passionate and voracious readers is the goal for the fourth grade Language Arts program. Through an enriched program of novel studies of a variety of genres to inquiry-based learning, the students explore character study, understanding plot and learn to interpret the meaning of the elements of fiction. Students are challenged to think critically and to connect to the stories they are reading. Through guided reading and group work, they students receive the attention needed in order to become strong, independent readers. Students also develop communication skills through Junior Great books where student-centered discussion are based on timeless literature. Students read stories and independently discuss their interpretations which are supported by evidence found in the text. 
     
    Writing
    Students are inspired and motivated to become competent and successful authors whereby they express themselves through their writing. Using the Lucy Calkins’ Common Core Writing Workshop students in fourth grade work on Realistic Fiction, Personal Narratives, Historical Fiction, and Informational essays. With an emphasis on developing believable characters, using realistic settings, and creating problems and solutions, students demonstrate their writing ability through their published works. Grammar, spelling and vocabulary extend the students’ knowledge enabling them to expand their vocabulary as well as building their knowledge of spelling rules allowing them to become accomplished spellers.
  • Fifth Grade

    Speaking / Listening
    Speaking and listening are essential components of the fifth grade curriculum. In all subject areas, students are expected to actively participate in class discussions. The discussions are both teacher and student-led, challenging all involved to empathetically listen to the other participants, while using details to express their own thoughts and ideas. The practice of respectfully questioning each other’s opinions ensures students have well-thought-out arguments backed by facts and evidence. The practice of questioning is honed using the “shared inquiry” method of learning through the Junior Great Books series. By listening to stories that make students think and ask questions, students are able to practice using questions to deepen their understanding of a topic. In fifth grade, students gain public speaking experience by presenting their work to their peers. Students are expected to stand in front of their peers and speak clearly at a volume that projects throughout a room. When presentations are finished, their peers offer compliments and constructive criticism, ensuring growth in future presentations. 
     
    Reading
    In fifth grade at the Kew-Forest School, Language Arts is taught with a balanced approach to literacy. Students spend an equal amount of time reading and writing. The reading curriculum incorporates whole class novel studies, shared inquiry discussions about the Junior Great Books series, book clubs where students get to read the same books as their peers on similar reading levels and independent reading where students get to choose books to read on their independent reading level. Through their reading, students explore themes, such as social issues, honesty, self-respect, and fitting in. 
     
    Writing 
    Writing instruction brings together vocabulary, grammar, and spelling programs with Lucy Calkins’ Common Core Writing Workshop. Together, these components work to raise the level of student writing so that students are able to effectively communicate their unique ideas through narratives, essays, poems, and journals. Students build their independence as they go through the writing process while pushing themselves to practice new strategies in the pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing and publishing stages. In fifth grade, there is an increased emphasis on researching topics from a wide-variety of sources and properly citing any information used in writing. Students are proud of the written work they produce and share it with friends and families in our school community.

The Kew-Forest School

119-17 Union Turnpike
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 268-4667
The oldest independent school in the borough of Queens, The Kew-Forest School is an independent co-educational, college preparatory school for students in Early Childhood Development (ECD) to 12th Grade.