Grade 3, 4 and 5 students are joyfully immersed in reading in writing, building the foundational skills needed to evolve as able researchers who can assess diverse information and shape and share their own meaningful perspectives. As students progress through the Reading and Writing Workshop curriculum, the experienced Lower School faculty team empowers the young learners to adopt the skills needed to approach, interpret, and engage with information in increasingly complex ways.
Writers Notebooks inspire Grade 3 students
To create a community of writers in Grade 3, students use their personal Writer's Notebooks for note taking, brainstorming, and editing. Students put their graphic organizers into the notebook and begin to synthesize their thoughts and ideas in the notebook, preparing to draft their work. At the start of the school year, to begin the writing journey together, students brought in pictures to decorate their Writers Notebooks. Students' pictures spoke to a range of topics, including: family photos, images of favorite sports team, hobbies, and favorite vacation pictures. These young writers incorporated their photos as they adorned their notebooks to create unique sources of pride and inspiration throughout the year. Ellen Eagleton, Grade 3 Faculty, describes the goal as "starting the Writers Workshop experience by giving the students a personal connection to their learning tools as well as to each other."
Grade 3 student Ella Breakstone affirms, "I like my notebook because it helps me focus and feel more comfortable when I am writing. When I look at it and see things such as my dog and bird, it inspires me to be a better writer because I am happy!" Classmate Dylan Rybicki added, "I like my notebook because it always gives me ideas and topics. It is so helpful when I am stuck because I have ideas right on my notebook!"
Throughout the year, Grade 3 students will focus on building their reading skills in fiction, including: stopping and jotting; using text evidence to make predictions; describing characters using traits and text evidence; summarizing and retelling; and defining unfamiliar words. Students also build skills in nonfiction, including: locating the main idea and supporting details; taking notes using a graphic organizer; locating information about a topic; and paraphrasing.
Grade 3 students also will improve their writing skills through exercises such as: writing a small moment story; utilizing the steps of the writing process (brainstorming, drafting, editing, revising); writing an informational text to include transitions between chapters; writing a persuasive speech to make an argument and follow up with supporting details; and editing to incorporate descriptive language and details.
Lifelong Readers in Grade 4
Learning lifelong skills through grade level curriculum is an ultimate goal of teaching. In Grade 4, students are exploring the differences between being a fiction reader versus a nonfiction reader. Students are familiar with reading their fiction books from front to back cover, jotting notes as they read. However, during this unit, students become researchers who skim texts to find sections that apply to a specific subtopic of their research. As nonfiction readers, students learn how text structure provides information about a topic. For example, they work in teams to research extreme weather, such as hurricanes and tornadoes; each student is in charge of finding information about a certain subtopic of that weather, such as causes and effects or safety and prevention. Then, as a group, they share their findings and synthesize it all together.
The ability to be a nonfiction reader, one who can negotiate between interesting and important information, is a vital skill that transfers over into other content areas. When asked how this skill will help them in the real world, Grade 4 student Charles Constantinides says, "It makes reading easier because you don't have to read everything, just the parts that answer your question. It saves you time!" Alex Baker agrees, adding, "If you want to share information with someone, you can quickly skim and find it in a book, rather than looking through every single page." Grade 4 students are taking this new approach to reading and applying it to their research on the United States.
In Social Sciences, students are studying the regions of the United States. In each region, students select a state and plan a weekend road trip where they will "visit" various locations and tourist attractions. In order to plan this trip, students must research their chosen state by reading a variety of sources. Students' understanding of nonfiction structure, such as knowing that headings and subtitles provide clues on where information can be found, is helping them with this research. Penny Prince explains, "I have the ability to find a subtopic faster than normal. My brain was familiar with finding information quicker and not having to read through everything on the website I was looking at." Students are taking this knowledge and using it to navigate online websites that encompass a plethora of information. Hannah Robbertz, Grade 4 Faculty, is excited to support her students in recognizing that being a nonfiction reader is an empowering lifelong skill and a tool that they can use to learn anything they want.
Cross-Curricular Reading and Writing in Grade 5
Grade 5 students further develop skills in Reading and Writing Workshops that they can apply to other curricular areas. After honing their abilities to make inferences based on text evidence, analyze unfamiliar vocabulary, and identify main ideas and supporting details, students strengthen their ability to read non-fiction materials with purpose and to take thoughtful, organized notes. Strong reading and writing skills undergird the research process that begins with immersion in multiple media sources and culminates in individual, varied final projects.
In the fall, Grade 5 students constructed their own knowledge of Ancient Mesopotamia by researching a topic of interest, creating a self-designed three-dimensional representation from both natural and simple craft materials, and writing a detailed description for a "museum placard." Grade 5 Faculty Lisa DeGirolami and Helen Santoro are continually impressed by their students' creativity. Mrs. DeGirolami noted, "When you encourage students to follow their interests, you have to allow that more than one student might choose to learn more about the same thing. But since each student has a unique vision, the directions of their research, and therefore, the expressions of their learning, can be wonderfully different." Mrs. Santoro added, "Choice is an important part of why Grade 5 students feel invested in their work. When, for example, from a broad topic of 'any physical activity,' a student can become an expert in cinematography, they are empowered to follow their passions."
Grade 5 students develop an ongoing understanding of interdisciplinary curricula. Tess Weisman realized early on that the work she does in Reading Workshop to learn about unusual animals mirrors the note-taking she's doing in Writing Workshop to research basketball. With that "aha" look in her eyes, she questioned her teacher knowingly, saying, "So, wait. You mean reading and writing go together?"
Reading and writing do go together - they are intertwined - and their study helps students develop the necessary skills to be lifelong researchers. As students, guided by teachers, learn how to think about what interests them, they forge their own inspired connections.
Learn more about the King Lower School program and how the reading and writing program across the school equips our PreK-Grade 12 students with a set of tools enabling them to read, think, write, and speak about a text on personal, communal, and global levels.