There is no substitute for effective and challenging instruction. Effectively engaging students in meaningful classroom learning activities is the most fundamental mission of all schools. In particular, this is the mission of the English Language Arts (ELA) Department at the Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing and Visual Arts. The Balanced Literacy Protocol (Reading, Writing, and Word Study) is the cornerstone of language arts instruction. Our students in grades 6 through 12 receive instruction in the following manner:
- Students in grades 6, 7and 8 receive instruction in 90-minute instructional periods, five days a week. The second 45-minutes of the 90-minute period are geared toward small-group and individual differentiated academic intervention services (AIS).
- Students in grades 9, 10, 11, and 12 receive instruction in 45-minute instructional periods.
- Special needs students and resource room students receive either self-contained instruction or additional academic intervention from content specific resource teachers.
- English Language Learners (ELLs) (newcomers, beginners, intermediate, and advanced levels) receive English instruction from ESL teachers using ESL strategies and methodologies.
The philosophy of instruction delivery underlying Balance Literacy is the Workshop Model. Within this model, the strategy is as follows:
- The teacher performs task. Student observes (I Do You Watch)
- Teacher performs task. Student helps. (I Do You Help)
- Student performs task. Teacher helps. (You Do I Help)
- Student performs task. Teacher observes. (You Do I Watch)
The “core curriculum” of the middle school is divided into curricular units. Each unit is driven by the study of a specific genre or author and includes both instruction in reading and writing. Genre study includes the following:
- The writerly life/memoirs, narrative writing
- Functional reading and writing
- Fictional reading and writing
- Nonfiction/feature articles
- Historical fiction
- Poetry as a genre
Both the middle school and high school genre studies, interwoven with the author study that runs through it, provide activities and experiences that give students opportunities to read and come to grips with with authentic and challenging texts. Whether it’s Hamlet by William Shakespeare, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines, The Giver by Lois Lowry, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’ Engle and many more, students are exposed to an academically rigorous and engaging curriculum. Ultimately, students are given the tools which will move them from novice to proficient readers and writers with a mastery of vocabulary – the goal of the English Language Arts Department.