• Language Arts Literacy

    Balanced Literacy is a framework designed to help all students learn to read, write, listen, speak and view effectively. The approach is based on the premise that all students can achieve literacy.

    The Morris School District Balanced Literacy framework uses an integrated approach that incorporates extensive reading and writing, the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model, and provides authentic opportunities for reading and writing which are scaffolded so that students gain increasing independence. Taking a balanced approach combines immersion in high-quality children’s literature, (fiction and nonfiction,); a concentration on student writing with specific attention, as needed, to letters, words, and how they work (phonics and word study); listening, viewing and speaking through a variety of modalities. The teacher explicitly demonstrates skills and strategies in activities such as think-alouds. With the strategic support of teachers, students take an increasing control of processes, and assume primary responsibility through independent reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing.

    The Morris School District Balanced Literacy framework provides a structured beginning point for instruction. The instructional strategies to address the New Jersey Student Learning Standards are selected by teachers in response to students’ needs, and the teacher’s understanding of how children develop as language learners. More than being separate components of a curriculum, the literacy activities become a repertoire of practices that teachers weave together based on their educational knowledge and their observations of children.

    The teaching of literacy takes place during an uninterrupted block of time, which can be extended through a thematic approach, with cross-curricular integration throughout the day to include reading, writing, spelling, listening, viewing and speaking using fiction and nonfiction literature. A book room stocked and leveled with multiple copies of quality children’s literature in each school supports the extensive research which the approach is built upon.

    Overall our approach to teaching literacy represents a complex understanding of both the teaching and learning processes. Rather than a program that can be scripted and delivered, teachers must engage directly in the development of their practice in the classroom. The design honors the creativity of each teacher in the implementation of the curriculum.

    Writing, Listening, Speaking and Viewing:

    Writing is a complex skill that involves learning a language and using it effectively to convey meaning. We recognize that students’ abilities in writing develops from their earliest stages with phonetic spelling to extending understanding of certain genre and then to the development of their ability to produce conventional, coherent, unified documents. Their ideas are expressed in various forms such as, lists, letters, stories, essays and reports.

    The teaching and learning of writing should not be fragmented or compartmentalized. Effective instruction incorporates multiple performance objectives into an integrated experience of learning for the student. A balanced approach to implementing the writing standards recognizes that not all skills and knowledge receive equal emphasis at all times. As students progress as maturing writers, emphasis of concepts or performance objectives will vary to meet their changing needs. Concepts are not taught in just one lesson but flow out of exposure and use of multiple skills that students are exposed to throughout their learning. Teachers decide how best to organize the content to fit the needs of their students.

    The Morris School District’s K-5 Writing Curriculum is based on the latest New Jersey Student Learning Standards for English Language Arts, which identify the skills and strategies that students should develop as they become effective and independent writers.

    The outcomes identified for each grade level will allow students to acquire the skills and strategies necessary to effectively express their ideas and thoughts and to address various topics for intended audiences and purposes. As students engage in the process of writing they will:

    • draw upon literature as a source of inspiration connected to writing
    • write voluntarily and often in various genres
    • develop their ability to sustain writing for long periods of time
    • learn to appreciate writing is part of effective communication
    • develop prewriting strategies to organize and plan for writing
    • learn to perceive the world through the eyes of a writer
    • develop strategies for revising and editing work
    • accept, via conferencing, guidance from teachers and peers
    • have opportunities to publish and share their work
    • reflect on their growth as writers

    During independent writing students are to be engaged in the work of writers, and as it’s the work of writers to read, then it makes sense that reading belongs connected to the writing. After all as Ted Kooser, a National Poet Laureate states, “Before you write one poem you need to read at least 100.”
    When planning for instruction teachers ensure that students will have opportunities to write across a variety of genres, affording them the time necessary to use the writing process and develop skills as a writer. The instructional technique employed revolves around the tenets of a workshop as developed, notably, by Lucy Calkins, Ralph Fletcher and Katie Wood Ray with lessons and units clearly built around a concept of workshop as an instructional time not simply a time for writing. This includes a direct link to literature via the use of mentor texts, teacher modeling, focused mini lessons, time for shared, guided and independent writing, conferencing and celebrations of publishing.