Writing Instruction at The Carey School
In keeping with our mission to provide a challenging core curriculum, to inspire a life long love of learning, and to pursue excellence in all that we do, the faculty completed a comprehensive review of our writing curriculum during the 2007-2008 school year. The newly revised writing program emphasizes direct instruction and application of six specific traits exemplified in excellent writing. Students apply their knowledge of the six traits in a variety of writing forms including narrative, expository, descriptive and persuasive writing pieces. Additionally, the newly revised program provides a strong emphasis on all components of language arts instruction including a newly adopted handwriting and spelling program (PK-5) and a whole language philosophy that guides development of vocabulary and grammatical concepts in the primary grades (PK-2) coupled with a formal vocabulary and grammar program in the upper grades (3-5). Furthermore, the program fosters listening and speaking skills that are developmentally appropriate at each grade level.
Our Writing Program is directly aligned with the Standards for English Language Arts published by The National Council of Teachers of English and The International Reading Association. Additionally, the Massachusetts English Language Arts Curriculum Framework and the California English-Language Arts Content Standards are used as guides to help support the Program.
The 6 +1 Traits of Writing Model serves as an overarching philosophy to guide writing instruction in all grades starting in Pre-Kindergarten. The six traits of writing include ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency and conventions. The “+1” stands for how a writing piece is presented. The trait of ideas refers to the actual content of a writing piece. Organization relates to how the piece is structured and whether or not a logical pattern of ideas is presented. Voice is what makes a writing piece unique as the author’s style and convictions come out through his/her words. Word choice refers to the use of “rich, colorful, precise language” that enhances a writing piece. Sentence fluency relates to the overall flow of a piece of writing and how the writing plays to the ear, not just the eye (Culham, 2003, pp. 11-12).
In August 2008, Sharon Strating visited The Carey School and presented a two day workshop on using the 6 + 1 Traits of Writing Model to help guide writing instruction in both primary and intermediate grades. Additionally, during the 2008-2009 school year, teachers have been meeting in study groups to discuss best practices in teaching writing using the 6 + 1 Traits of Writing Model. With a teacher representative from each grade level, the three different study groups focus on sharing lesson ideas, developing assessment criteria and discussing effective ways to implement the instructional model when teaching writing.
In addition to an emphasis on the six traits of excellent writing, our Program also emphasizes handwriting, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, listening and speaking skills. In the Pre-K and Kindergarten Program, basic handwriting skills are taught with an emphasis on developmentally appropriate skills such as how to hold a pencil, how to write from left to right, etc. Cursive writing remains an emphasis in our upper grades, even as students learn the word processing skills necessary to develop computer generated research reports and essays. Our Spelling Program blends basic spelling patterns, rules and word families with more innovative activities in which students are required to apply knowledge.
Vocabulary development is consistently emphasized throughout our Reading Program in all grades with a more formal emphasis beginning in fourth grade focused on word attack strategies for challenging vocabulary words. Grammar is also taught as an essential component of our Reading Program in all grades with a more formal emphasis beginning in third grade on more challenging grammatical concepts and writing conventions. Finally, listening and speaking skills are explicitly taught in all grades ranging from sharing information in complete, coherent sentences in Pre-K and Kindergarten to learning how to debate and deliver persuasive presentations in fifth grade.
The Carey School Standards for Writing Instruction and Listening and Speaking are included below in PDF format to provide the scope and sequence of our Program. Our learning goals and objectives are developmentally appropriate and are color coded according to the grade level in which the skills are of primary focus. You will also find a PDF version entitled “NCTE and IRA Standards for the English Language Arts.” This document provides an overview of the overarching standards as published by The National Council for Teachers of English and The International Reading Association that guide our Writing Program. We encourage you to view these documents as they provide a comprehensive overview of our Writing Program. Should you have any questions, please contact our Director of Studies, Tracy Gray-Hair at .
Click HERE to view The Carey School standards for writing.
Click HERE to view the National Standards Published by the National Council for Teachers of English and the International Reading Association.