Balanced Literacy at Yu Ming – English
At Yu Ming, our balanced literacy program is used to support students at all grade levels. Students in kindergarten through 2nd grade will receive 10 percent of their instruction in English. The amount of English instruction rises to 30 percent in 3rd and 4th grades, and to 50 percent in 5th grade. In addition to developing a love of reading and writing, the goal of the English program at Yu Ming is to support students in developing strong literacy skills in English.
Foundational and Vocabulary Skills
We use Common Core standards as our guideline for teaching foundational and vocabulary skills. Instruction begins with phonemic awareness (hearing sounds in words) and phonics (how words work). Students are taught letters and letter sounds, and then advance to blending sounds and reading words. They continue in the upper elementary grades with word study, which provides students with opportunities to understand the patterns in words and receive vocabulary and spelling instruction.
Guided reading is an integral part of a comprehensive literacy program, and it occurs in all grades. Teachers meet with a small group of students to provide instruction at the students’ individual reading levels. These small groups work on developing reading strategies in order to read increasingly difficult texts independently. In the lower elementary grades, the teacher plans the lesson and learning objective, models and monitors decoding strategies, and checks for understanding. In the upper elementary grades, the teacher supports students through literature circles and/or book clubs, where students develop more independence in their groups. During guided reading time, the rest of the class continues their learning through independent and/or group literacy centers.
In addition to decoding, or matching letters to their sounds to make words, students need to be able to understand what they are reading. Students are taught comprehension strategies, such as visualizing and inferring throughout their time in English class. Teachers use the Reader’s Workshop model to teach targeted mini-lessons that focus on comprehension strategies, and these skills are modeled with read-alouds or grade-level books. Students demonstrate their use of these strategies during independent and guided reading time. Comprehension skills are introduced in kindergarten and 1st grade, but reinforced and deepened in the upper grades.
Students in 2nd grade and above participate in shared inquiry. Shared inquiry is a discussion-based curriculum that allows individuals to achieve a more thorough understanding of a text by discussing questions, responses, and insights with other readers. Students search for answers to questions raised by the text. The class comes together to explore the meaning of a work of literature. Each member of the group brings a unique perspective that influences how he or she understands the text. By sharing their interpretations, students gain new insights and deepen or change their understanding of material they’ve read.
The shared inquiry program is student-centered. Instead of teachers sharing their own opinions, children are guided to reach their own interpretations. The teacher does this by posing thought-provoking questions and following up purposefully on what participants say. In the program, children learn to give consideration to the ideas of others, weigh the merits of opposing arguments, and modify their initial opinions as the evidence demands. Shared inquiry emphasizes Common Core-based practices such as close reading, citing evidence from the text, and academic discourse.
Yu Ming offers a comprehensive, schoolwide writing instruction system across language and across the grades that combines the Writer’s Workshop and Learning Headquarters approaches. Writer’s Workshop is a format for process writing instruction in which students move through the the stages of the writing process: writing, drafting, editing, revising, and publishing. The workshop helps teachers oversee and support each student’s writing process while also facilitating feedback in a variety of ways.
The Learning Headquarters approach builds upon the Writer’s Workshop format and adds day-to-day explicit instruction connecting demonstration to student practice and grade-level specific writing. This approach is aligned with Common Core expectations and also considers how students authentically develop as writers from scribbles to multi-paragraph essays. On a typical day, writing instruction might include a lesson launch, a mini-lesson, independent writing time, and a sharing or writing celebration.
A variety of formal and informal assessments drives our instruction, and they are used throughout the school year.
- Formal assessment: Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) is given to all students to measure their reading progress. Students in the lower grades (K-2) take the adaptive Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®) assessment twice a year. Yu Ming students in 3rd grade and above participate in state testing.
- Informal assessment: Teachers use work in writing binders, spelling tests, student participation, and daily observations to continue to inform instruction.
Students in kindergarten through 2nd grade receive reading and writing instruction during their English time. With only 10 percent of their instruction in English, the focus is primarily on reading and writing. In order to support and collaborate with the Mandarin teachers, English teachers try to choose books for guided reading or read-alouds that are based on what the students are learning in science or social studies in Mandarin class.
Students in 3rd and 4th grade begin to receive social studies instruction during English time. Math and science instruction is added to the English class in 5th grade.