With the Reading Units of Study, students start building good reading habits. The units help students focus on the reading process and set children up to read increasingly complex texts. Teachers help students expand their word-solving strategies and learn to monitor for meaning. The students move on to beginning to understand literal and inferential comprehension. They learn to make predictions, determine importance, and to use text details to grow ideas about characters. As writers, students take the everyday events of their young lives and make them into focused, well-structured stories. Then, they learn to breathe life into the characters by making them talk, think, and interact. In first grade, students enter the world of informational writing as they combine pictures and charts with domain-specific vocabulary and craft moves to create engaging teaching texts. They also create a variety of persuasive reviews —TV show reviews, ice cream flavor reviews, and finally book reviews that hook the reader, clearly express the writer’s opinion, and bolster their argument in convincing ways.
The Reading Units of Study in second grade highlight fluency and comprehension and teach children that effective readers draw on everything they know to figure out challenging words. They keep focusing on important foundational skills like fluency and exploring figurative language. Teachers also teach strategies to help students capture what has happened in one part of a text and carry that forward as they read longer, more complicated books. When students begin reading nonfiction, they are taught resourceful word solving for the purposes of vocabulary development. Students also choose a topic to read about and compare and contrast information across texts. With the Writing Units of Study students learn how to create engaging narratives by stretching out small moments and writing in detail. This year, students also engage in persuasive writing and gather evidence to craft an effective persuasive argument. It is also the first year students start writing about reading. They learn how to respond to comprehension questions related to a text they’ve read and they start developing their literary analysis skills.
At the beginning of the year, the reading units launch our students into upper elementary readers. Students learn to use strategies for tackling multisyllabic words, figurative language, and more complex sentences. This is the year when students start reading strategically in order to learn by grasping main ideas and text structures. Then they move onto a challenging unit of research and learning to learn—perhaps the single most important academic skill students can be offered as we send them out into the world. The Writing Units of Study extend students’ work with personal narrative while engaging them more fully in the complete writing process, with increasing emphasis on drafting and revising their work. Students in this grade level write chapter books that synthesize a wide variety of information and learn to section their topics into subtopics. They also use their newfound abilities to gather and organize information to persuade people about causes the children believe matter. They convey this organized information through persuasive speeches, petitions and editorials.
In grade four, students are invited to delve into complex texts and see significance in details. They study the complexity of characters and the themes those characters advance. The reading curriculum teaches students that expository texts are organized into text structures and that they can use their knowledge of structures to determine what is important. Children form research teams to study tone and craft, practice close reading, and evaluate sources for credibility. By the end of the year, students start reading analytically, synthesizing complicated narratives, comparing and contrasting themes, and incorporating nonfiction research into their reading. Children learn to think across fiction and nonfiction texts. With the writing curriculum, students learn that the lenses they bring to reading fiction can also be brought to writing fiction, as they develop believable characters with struggles, motivations, and rich stories to tell. Students also learn the value of organization and form as they gather evidence to support and express an opinion on topics they know well. By the end of the year, students build on their learning of essay writing and apply it with increasing sophistication to a unit on literary essays—that is, writing about fiction.
The reading curriculum in grade five asks students to draw on a repertoire of ways for reading closely. Students read analytically and notice how different authors develop the same theme in different texts. They work in clubs to become deeply immersed in the fantasy genre and further develop higher-level thinking skills to study how authors develop characters and themes over time. Students are also taught to embrace the complexities of high-interest nonfiction texts. Then, students work in research groups to study a debatable issue. Teachers help students develop deeper questions and ideas and they encourage them to engage in more complicated conversations. The writing curriculum helps students deliberately use their knowledge of narrative craft to make their stories more thematic. Students draw inspiration and understanding from mentor texts, historical accounts, primary source documents, maps, and timelines to write focused research reports. By the end of the year, fifth graders learn how to build powerful arguments that convincingly balance evidence and analysis to persuade readers to action.