English Language Arts

Balanced Literacy

A comprehensive balanced literacy program based on strong research and effective classroom practices is used at Christopher House Elementary School. The balanced literacy program teaches the children to comprehend, appreciate and enjoy reading. It combines developmentally appropriate language and literature, rich reading and writing experiences with explicit skills instruction based on the assessed needs of the children.

The program’s goal is for all children to become capable, confident readers who understand sound/symbol relationships, gain meaning from print and acquire an appreciation for the love of reading.

Components of a balanced literacy program include:

  • Interactive Read Aloud
  • Shared Reading – whole class
  • Guided Reading – small group
  • Independent Reading
  • Shared Writing – whole class
  • Phonics and Vocabulary Development
  • Interactive Writing – whole class
  • Writer’s Workshop – small groups or individual
  • Independent Writing
  • Blended Learning (Online Programs)


For young children, one of the most effective ways to learn new words is to listen to read-alouds. During read aloud, Students actively listen and respond to an oral reading of a text. Reading to children is the most effective literacy demonstration one can provide. As we read aloud, we demonstrate how to think and act like a reader; we also provide insights into writing because we are sharing a coherent, meaningful piece of written language that an author has constructed.

  • Christopher House Elementary School scholars are exposed to a variety of genres and increasingly complex texts
  • Christopher House Elementary School teachers direct scholars’ attention to author’s craft, use of language, characterization, organization and text structure


Scholars read from a common enlarged text, either a large-print book, a chart, or a projected text. Individuals may also have their own copies. Our teachers lead the scholars, pointing to words or phrases. Reading is usually in unison, although there are adaptations, such as groups alternating lines or individuals reading some lines.


Guided reading is a context in which a teacher supports each reader’s development of effective reading strategies for processing texts at increasingly challenging levels of difficulty in a small group setting. Guided reading helps students to become fluent readers who can problem solve strategically and read independently and silently.


Independent Reading is the final stage of comprehensive literacy; scholars take on full responsibility for their reading. As the continuum of reading instruction flows from teacher read-alouds to shared reading to guided reading, scholars learn and practice good reading strategies with various amounts of responsibility. In the early stages of comprehensive literacy, student responsibility was interposed with teacher responsibility.

In the independent reading stage however, students are required to self-select and read materials at their own “just right” levels, navigate texts, and practice on their own what they have learned about comprehending text. By self-selecting books, scholars take control of what they read and, therefore, become confident, motivated, and enthusiastic about reading. Because scholars can now choose what they read, the teacher has many genres available to them. Books can be recommended to scholars by teachers or by their peers. During independent reading, scholars may be asked to complete a reading log and teachers may conference with individual scholars, to monitor their progress.


In shared writing, the teacher and class or small group of students compose a meaningful text together. Through guided conversation, the teacher scaffolds the students’ language and ideas. The teacher scribes during the construction, focusing on a few key teaching points regarding word solving, the craft of writing, or the conventions of writing. The text is reread many times and used as a reference for student writing.


Kindergarten Sing, Spell, Read & Write uses phonics songs, interactive charts, and games to teach the alphabetic principle, phonemic awareness, sound/letter correspondence, short vowel sounds, and blending – in a fun and meaningful way. By the end of Kindergarten students will be reading fully-decodable story books with single-, short- vowel words.

First Grade Sing, Spell, Read & Write uses carefully sequenced, systematic, explicit phonics instruction to build fluent independent readers. It is effective because it engages students in playing games; singing songs; and look, listen, point, sing-along, and echo routines that stimulate the senses and appeal to all learning styles. Its approach requires total participation on the part of the learner and is strongly supported by current research on brain function, language acquisition, and reading.


Word Work/phonics: Words Their Way Grades K-3

Words Their Way is a developmental spelling, phonics, and vocabulary program that is structured as an open ended, individual process.  An assessment is given to determine where to begin instruction for each scholar and based on assessment results, students are given words to study in order to discover the common attributes of spelling patterns.  Scholars learn features by completing activities such as word sorting, word hunts, games, drawing, and labeling.  Scholars work individually, with partners, and in small groups to encourage cooperative learning and individual responsibility.

Vocabulary: Wordly Wise Grades K-3

K-1st (explicit oral vocabulary)

Wordly Wise 3000 Levels K and 1 develop key oral vocabulary that lays the foundation for literacy success and prepares students for the content–area reading they will encounter in later grades. Research studies have established that even though children learn many words incidentally, they also need to profit from the direct teaching of vocabulary.

Children enter Kindergarten with a wide range of vocabulary and knowledge (Hart & Risley, 1995). For children who enter school with similar vocabularies, Wordly Wise 3000 Levels K and 1 ensure exposure to a core or high utility vocabulary used frequently across domains. For children with larger vocabularies, more challenging words are taught. In all cases, children learn words that are both developmentally appropriate and important for content-area reading comprehension in later grades.

Grades 2-5 (developing vocabulary)

Vocabulary instruction becomes more sophisticated while continuing to prepare students for content-area learning. Strategies and skills include: vocabulary development, reading comprehension, critical thinking, using a dictionary and pronunciation key, word usage, test taking/assessment, context clues, synonyms and antonyms, multiple-meaning words, using word parts to determine meaning, prefixes, suffixes, Greek and Latin roots, homophones, picture clues and captions, analogies, word origins, and repeated exposure in many contexts.


In interactive writing the teacher shares the pen with a class or group of children as they collaboratively compose and construct a written message. Everyone in the group has the opportunity to see a clear demonstration of the process of producing a piece of writing from thinking about and composing the message to using the written product. Each time a child comes to the easel to contribute a letter, word, or print feature (spacer, punctuation), the action has instructional value. The final text is readable by most children and displayed for permanent demonstration. It is a resource for words and a reminder of how to go about writing.


Writer’s workshop is whole-class or small-group instruction for students learning the same craft and conventions of writing. The teacher provides explicit teaching of writer’s craft, strategies, and skills based on group needs or interests.


During independent writing, students work individually to compose meaningful texts. They apply what they have learned from the writing process to the composition and construction of their own text.


Reading Eggs Grades K-1

Reading Eggs is a powerful research based educational program to teach scholars how to read.  The lessons are motivating and engaging because they incorporate animation, activities, and reward games.  Scholars start the program by completing a placement quiz and building upon their skill set as they interact with the lessons.

 IXL Language Arts Grades 2-3

IXL Language Arts offers a variety of interactive questions to increase scholars’ participation and learning.  Scholars enjoy using and interacting with meaningful texts, identifying and correcting grammatical errors, and breaking down new words to increase contextual comprehension.  The instruction adapts to the individual needs of the scholar by becoming easier if they’re struggling and harder if they’re excelling.  This allows the child to feel confident and positive when reading, while still being challenged to increase their reading proficiency.

RAZ Kids Grades 2-3

RAZ Kids is a motivational online reading program with over 400 eBooks; each with a quiz to measure scholar comprehension and provide teachers with skill reports for data-driven instruction.  Scholars can practice reading at school, at home, or anywhere they have internet access.  Teachers can create assignments and track student progress with online assessments and scholar recordings.  Scholars read at their individual level and gain skills they need to build upon their skills and be successful readers.