LANGUAGE ARTS | SOCIAL STUDIES
At The Learning Community School, we teach language arts through a balanced literacy approach anchored in Columbia University’s Reading and Writing Workshop model. Our students are deeply immersed in a literacy-rich environment. They participate in reading and writing every day across all subject areas, starting in the K/1 classroom. As a result, our students identify themselves as readers and writers very early on. They become adept at examining the world with a writer’s attention to detail.
Balanced literacy also means that skills for reading, writing, speaking, and listening are explicitly taught. Reading Workshop in middle school, for example, focuses on teaching students specific strategies for close reading and annotating to prepare them for literature discussions and book talks with classmates.
In K/1, students learn to read with a phonetically based, multi-sensory method rooted in the Orton-Gillingham sequence. This method incorporates those skills throughout the grades in teaching word study, which includes phonics, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, and mechanics. Students have several opportunities to share their work throughout the year, including all-school authors’ parties, school celebrations, in-class discussions, and submitting pieces to local publications.
Reading and Writing Workshops remain the cornerstone of TLC’s rigorous, student-centered academic program and help our students grow into reflective, articulate, empathetic, and self-aware young people.
LANGUAGE ARTS CURRICULUM
Our Kindergarten language arts program provides instruction in phonics, handwriting, reading, writing, and speaking/listening. For our kindergarten students, teachers emphasize building phonemic awareness, sound-symbol correlation, and proper letter formation in to create a strong foundation for reading. First graders learn decoding strategies for increasingly complex words, starting with simple ‘cvc’ patterns, and progressing to words with blends, digraphs, simple suffixes, vowel teams, and two closed-syllable words. Sight words, spelling rules, and basic grammar are explicitly taught.
Emerging writers label their drawings with letters and simple words while verbally narrating their stories, while more established writers create sentences with capitalization and ending punctuation and develop their stories with a beginning, middle, and end. Writing is presented as a process from topic generation through editing and revision. Phonics and spelling are taught using the Wilson Fundations curriculum, and students progress through the Orton-Gillingham sequence with multisensory lessons. Students practice guided reading and learn comprehension strategies in small-group lessons and during read-alouds.
The ultimate goal of Kindergarten is to build fluency skills in both reading and writing based on a solid foundation of phonemic awareness.
Sample units of study in Kindergarten Reading and Writing Workshop include:
- Small Moment/memoir writing
- “All About” or “How-to” nonfiction writing
- Seasonal writing
- Persuasive writing
- Fairy tales
The first and second grade language arts curriculum delves deeper into the Reading and Writing Workshop Units of Study, while strengthening the foundation of phonics, spelling, and decoding skills. Students work their way through the Orton-Gillingham sequence for reading and spelling with the Wilson Fundations and Words Their Way curricula. They practice both guided and independent reading and are read to throughout the school day. Teachers instruct students in comprehension strategies, as doing so strengthens their writing.
A portion of each day is spent in the Writing Workshop process, which begins and ends with share time. Individual workshop time includes editing, revising, and conferring with peers and teachers.
Direct instruction in grammar, punctuation, and paragraph structure is interwoven into mini-lessons and reinforced during word study. Students learn to write in cursive and make the transition to using cursive in their written work. Genre and author studies immerse students in fiction and non-fiction reading and serve as mentor texts for their writing.
Students at TLC are passionate about literacy in all its forms. Sample units of study for Reader’s and Writing Workshop include:
- Personal narrative
- Informational articles
- Persuasive letters
- How-to/Instructional brochures
- Fictional/Fantasy stories
- Reading reflections
Our third and fourth grade language arts curriculum supports our students as they transition from the decoding and phonics work of learning to read, to reading to learn and find information.
Reading strategies are still actively taught in Reading Workshop as students learn to construct meaning and make connections in individual reading responses and in group work.
Research skills are taught to support work across the curriculum, and students are introduced to annotating as a technique to practice close reading and improve comprehension.
In these grades, word work takes the form of more complex grammar, mechanics, vocabulary, and morphology, including prefixes, root words, and suffixes. Word work is taught through direct instruction and is also intertwined and informed by the units of study in the Writing Workshop.
Students learn the skill of keyboarding to facilitate a gradual transition to writing on the computer in middle school. Writing Workshop has students writing every day and the class moves through the writing process of drafting, editing, revising, and publishing. Paragraph crafting is emphasized as students write across a variety of genres.
Units of study in Reading and Writing Workshop in 4/5 includes:
- Creation myths
- Book reviews
- Personal narrative
- Opinion pieces
- Short fiction
- Biographical sketches
Our middle school Reading and Writing Workshop emphasizes critical thinking and builds meta-cognitive skills through a challenging and collaborative approach to language arts.
Students are immersed in mentor texts as they develop the style and craft of their writing in different genres. They create living documents of their learning by recording reading responses, notes on mini-lessons, grammar, and word study topics in their Writing Handbook and journals. Each student curates personalized editing and revision checklists from their writing conferences with teachers, which are utilized as students move pieces through the writing process. Throughout the year, students add to their portfolios so they witness the progression of their work as it moves through the writing process of drafting, editing, revision, and publishing.
They read across a variety of genres and write extensively about their reading, while learning new tools for making meaning; including various methods of annotating for different purposes. Student-led book studies are conducted each semester. Word Work is rooted in the Writing Workshop, but is also taught through direct instruction and includes more complex grammar and mechanics, vocabulary, spelling, and morphology of Latin and Greek roots.
Middle school students read, write, and engage in discussions everyday in language arts.
Units of study in Middle School Reading and Writing Workshop include:
- Flash fiction
- Slice-of-life writing
- Op-ed pieces
- Letters to authors, letters to the editor
- Professional emails
- 500-words-a-day unit
Social studies at TLC is hands-on, experiential, and arts-integrated. The values of TEAM are emphasized through the connections students make while studying history and the world around them. Geography, civics, inclusion and diversity, and social justice are woven into the curriculum at each grade level. TLC’s social studies curriculum in the early grades follows a progression from community to the larger world. In upper elementary, students focus on civics, American history, world cultures, and N.C. history. In middle school, students study a modern history of the United States and Civics, global studies, human rights, and social justice movements. Middle schoolers analyze history through a critical lens and from multiple perspectives, fostering a mindset of compassion and empowering students to effect change through advocacy and activism.
SOCIAL STUDIES CURRICULUM
Kindergarten social studies is taught with the interwoven themes of Faces, Spaces, and Places. We begin with a focus on families, our school community, and neighborhoods before we branch out into our local community. The children learn to appreciate similarities and differences among people and how they live and work. They explore and discuss aspects of the economy such as jobs, transportation, stores and shops, and spending and saving money. These lessons are often accompanied by intentional stories and picture books, and students often add their own reflections in their social studies journals. The students begin to develop an understanding of a continent, country, state, city, and community. They are exposed to the democratic process of making rules and decisions. They learn inquiry skills as they become aware of problems and start to brainstorm solutions. Geography lessons include working with maps and an introduction to the four cardinal directions.
We learn about cultural traditions from around the world and their historical origins, as well as those we celebrate in our own families. This approach encourages our youngest students to make connections between their home and local community and the diverse, multicultural world in which we live. Topics of study are spread out over a two-year cycle and are interwoven with our social and emotional intelligence curriculum: TEAM.
Units of Study include:
- Families and friends
- Communication skills
- Geography: continents, oceans, and major landmarks
- World cultures
- WNC Native American cultures
- U.S. Presidents
- Famous Black Americans
- Famous women
Social studies in first and second grade builds on students’ understanding of community at the local level and expands it to the state and national level. Lessons are designed to actively engage students through hands-on activities, read-alouds, cooperative games, guided research, dramatic reenactments, and integrated art projects. Students are also introduced to simple note taking and annotation skills to prepare them for social studies at the upper elementary levels. The curriculum is designed as a two-year rotation. Year A focuses primarily on U.S. history and economics, while Year B is centered around government and citizenship. Both rotations include units on celebrations and cultures around the world. Geography is also woven into every unit to underscore the expansive role that environmental and geographical conditions play within any subject under the umbrella of social sciences.
Units of study:
Year A: History and Economics
- The “New World” and Pre-European settlement
- Revolutionary War and American independence
- Western expansion
- Historical figures
- Goods and services and types of resources
- Producers and consumers Supply and demand
Year B: Government and Citizenship
- Fairness and opportunity
- Purpose of government and origins of U.S. democracy
- Levels of government
- Government services
- Role of citizens and the importance of responsible citizenship
- Voting and the election process
- American symbols, landmarks, and monuments
In third and fourth grades, social studies lessons are often literacy-based, hands-on, and arts-integrated. At this age, students transition from a focus on learning to read to reading to learn. As a reading- and writing-intensive school, we help students reinforce key concepts learned in language arts through their classwork. For example, they learn to create basic outlines and notes of their readings to increase comprehension, and they engage in regular reading responses in a way that exercises critical thinking skills. Examples of skills we teach include identifying main ideas and supporting details in a text, comparing and contrasting two accounts of an event, and describing the structure of events, ideas, or information presented in a text. Sketching and mapwork is also included in each topic of study along with project-based learning and drama and simulation activities. Fourth- and fifth-grade students complete social studies units on a two-year rotation. Year A is North Carolina history and World Cultures, and Year B centers on Civics and U.S. History. Geography is studied each year, and students are encouraged each year to participate in National Geographic’s GeoBee.
Units of study:
Year A: Civics and U.S. History
- Purpose of government
- American Revolution
- U.S. Constitution
- How a bill becomes a law
- Three branches and checks and balances
- Defining civic duty and participation
Year B: N.C. History and World Cultures
- Indigenous American Indian groups in North Carolina
- Founding of North Carolina
- North Carolina’s role in major conflicts and wars from the pre-colonial period through Reconstruction
- N.C. government
- N.C. cultural heritage
- World geography
- Legacy of colonialism
- World tour: students study the culture, geography, and history of various
regions throughout the year
In middle school, social studies is integrated with language arts curricula. Middle schoolers are challenged to think critically about world history and current events; they are taught to express their thoughts through class discussions, presentations, and various forms of writing. As part of our reading- and writing-intensive curriculum, students read a variety of perspectives in texts, including chapters from history books, primary sources, websites, maps, and current articles. Students learn to answer document-based questions and write clearly organized opinion pieces and essays, citing textual evidence and examples to support their analysis. Students identify central ideas and analyze the development of those ideas over the course of a text. They learn to discern fact from opinion and isolate an author’s point of view and purpose in various forms of writing. Students are taught to take organized, detailed notes and learn a variety of methods for studying for quizzes and tests. The study of geography, American civics, and current events is woven into the
Units of Study can include:
- The conquistadors and colonization in the Americas
- Native American tribal nations and colonization
- The 13 colonies
- The Trail of Tears
- Dakota Access Pipeline: Water is Life
- Enslavement and triangle
- Russia: early growth and expansion
- Ancient civilizations on the African Continent
- American Civil War: causes, conflicts, and consequences
- Native American cultures, conflicts, and removal
- World cultures and religions
- Industrialism, capitalism, and socialism
- Latin American independence movements
- Civil Rights: women in the Black Panther Party
- The rise of totalitarianism in Europe
- The Cold War