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Philosophy & Practice of Reading Development

& Instruction

The overarching reading goal for students at The Village School is to become lifelong readers who have the passion and skills to embrace and navigate the wide world of print.  We strive to empower our students with both the meaning-making and the technical skills for engaging in challenging texts.  It is a deep value of The Village School to cultivate children's sense of wonder, awe and excitement for fiction and nonfiction works. 

In Preschool, children have a story of the week, usually a classic fairy tale, each day presented in a different way.  On the first day, it is told aloud, the next day read from a book, later told with a flannel board, and sometimes told with puppets.  By the end of the week, the children know the story well, and are ready to act it out, often reciting lines verbatim.  Children learn to love story, and begin inventing their own stories.   The preschool also has lots of books for children to read, and the children love to settle in with a book in the reading area.  Every other week, the preschool class walks to the library and chooses books for the classroom that they will explore and enjoy for the following weeks.  And the preschoolers look forward to their older reading buddies who come in once a week and read to them, often a book that the older buddy has chosen with their preschool buddy in mind.  The preschool reading program is the foundation of the love of reading, which will be nourished as the children progress through the grades.

In Kindergarten, children's natural love of language and books is fostered in a variety of ways.  Students have books read to them and stories told to them everyday.  They have opportunities to respond with passion and creativity to these stories through a variety of projects, discussions, and by drawing responsive pictures in their journals.  Kindergarten students inhabit their own world, somewhere between “the real world” and the world of pretend.  They need time to develop their whole selves through play and often use this time to recreate scenes from the books and stories they hear.  The Village School honors children's natural developmental stages and, as such, does not stress the development of decoding skills when students are Kindergarteners.  Generally, Kindergarten students are just beginning to open up to the world of print as the school year progresses.  They are excited to learn the sounds that match each letter and, toward the end of Kindergarten, begin to blend a few sounds together to read simple words like ‘cat.'  While many schools across the country are responding to the pressures of standardized testing by filling the Kindergarten school day with reading instruction, The Village School treasures the magical time of five year olds and does not rush them through this period of vivid imagination.  Over and over again, we have seen that by the time Village School children reach the third grade, they are reading on or above grade level with meaning-making and technical prowess.  And, most importantly, they love all kinds of books and feel honored and respected for who they are as readers.

Grade 1, which is combined with the Kindergarten class, serves as a bridge between the imaginative world of Kindergarten and the more concrete world of Grade 2.  In Grade 1, students continue to hear stories and have opportunities to respond to those stories creatively in a variety of ways.  Through play, 1st Graders continue to make meaning of the stories and books that they hear.  Developmentally, six year olds are also tuning into the world of print and show a natural curiosity for the text that they see in books.  These students begin reading books right at their level.  They are taught early decoding skills along with other reading strategies such as using the pictures, pointing under the words, and blending the discreet sounds from the words they want to read.  1st Graders are excited by this work and feel proud and eager to be entering into the world of print.  These children are starting to gain access to street signs, signs in grocery stores, and the print on the back of cereal boxes.  A whole other world of communication is beginning to open up to them and six year olds are thrilled at this prospect.

In Grades 2 and 3, children are continuing to work toward independence in their reading lives.  The students in this classroom engage in a Readers' Workshop several times a week.  During these sessions, the teacher offers general class instruction through a group mini-lesson and then students have time to practice the skill, strategy or concept taught while reading independently or with a partner.  The teacher then has an opportunity to work with students independently or in small groups and cater instruction to the more specific needs of students.  The small class sizes at The Village School enable the teacher to spend quality instructional time with individuals or small groups with great frequency.

Specifically, the 2nd and 3rd grade students engage with Units of Study in reading across the year. These Units of Study frame the reading work for students and provide specific areas of focus in which students develop their reading skills.  For example, students may focus on the Elements of Story, thinking deeply about character, plot, setting or movement through time.  Students may study particular genres of books, including nonfiction informational texts, mysteries or poetry.  Through group and individual instruction, students work toward ever deeper levels of engagement and thought with their texts as they stop to talk with their reading partners about a component of their books, use post-its to hold a theory they have about a character, or revisit their texts to find evidence to support their ideas.  The books that the students read are most often at their ‘Just Right' level, so that the children have a smooth read and feel appropriately challenged and successful.  Students think, talk and share about the books they read, deepening their understanding and honing their meaning-making skills as they do so.

All the classrooms at The Village School also have a Word Study component of instruction several times each week.  During this time, students work at their specific skill level learning the technical aspects of decoding.  They are offered specific instruction in skills ranging from learning letter sounds to decoding multi-syllable words.  Beyond decoding, children are learning word patterns for spelling and learning new vocabulary words.  Learning to decode the text in the books children read is a key ingredient toward the larger goal of reading for meaning and understanding.

As children enter the 4th-6th classroom, they are reading independently with a sense of purpose, passion and confidence.  They have developed the meaning-making and technical skills to be successful with more complex and sophisticated texts.  The children entering the 4th Grade bring with them a sense of excitement about the purposeful work ahead of them in the years to come.

This document is focused on reading.  In brief, about writing:  Writing goes hand in hand with reading.  With the Village School emphasis on story, the excitement about hearing and reading stories feeds into the ethos that everyone is a writer and has a story to tell.  From Preschool on, all forms of writing are taught, encouraged and celebrated.  When students graduate the Village School, they are not only avid discerning readers, but they are also strong writers who know how to use the written word for self-expression and communication.

Cave Journals Reading Buddies Journal Writing Group Reading Reading Partners

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Contact Information::

Email: info@villageschoolma.org
Phone: 978.249.3505