Posted in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, General, Malletts Bay School, Porters Point School, Primer Series, Programs, Union Memorial School

Primer Series: CSD’s Literacy Programs—Part II

We recently published the first installment of a primer about CSD’s literacy programs, primarily focusing upon Malletts Bay School’s initiatives in that area. Let’s continue with that discussion today by talking a bit about some of Porters Point School’s efforts in the area of literacy.

PPS students in grades 1 and 2 incrementally build up to a daily two-hour literacy block, during which time they participate in a variety of literacy-related activities, including spelling workshops, talking about vocabulary, and so on. Using standardized local assessments, our educators determine students’ individual literacy skill levels, and the students are challenged according to their skill level based upon the results of these assessments.

PPS also has a Writer’s Workshop program similar to MBS’s, using mini-lessons to introduce a specific skill to students. The students then incorporate those new skills into their writing. Part of the writing program includes a “partner share” element where students engage in a brainstorming session prior to their scheduled writing time in order to generate topic ideas. Students also share their writing with one another at the end of the session.

Another important component of PPS’s literacy initiative is a comprehensive guided reading program similar to MBS’s that is designed to accommodate and challenge readers of all levels of mastery. The school has an extensive library of leveled readers that are categorized by skill level and by theme. In this way, all students can collaboratively study the same subject matter at individualized reading mastery levels. And like Union Memorial School, Porters Point School also has an emergent reading program.

The daily spelling program includes direct instruction from the teachers, and it consists of both writing and dictation components. Additionally, there is a tactile element to the spelling program that engages the students in multiple areas of cognition. For example, students are encouraged to “tap out” the letters of a word on their arms as they recite them, or they may employ “skywriting,” which involves “writing” out the letters in the air in front of them as they spell out the words. In this way, multiple areas of the brain are simultaneously engaged, which research has indicated assists with knowledge acquisition and comprehension.

Student assessments—including the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System, the Fry Sight Word List, and the Gates-MacGinitie test—are conducted on a regularly scheduled basis in order to determine whether each student’s mastery level is above, on, or below the district’s standards. For example, it is the goal that every first grader ends the school year as a reader as defined by the aforementioned Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System.

And in addition to their ongoing professional development and continued training, the staff at PPS has also benefited from a workshop featuring Leah Mermelstein, a literacy expert who specializes in reading and writing education for K–5 students.

For more information about PPS’s literacy programs, please contact Jim Marshall at You may also wish to visit the Vermont Department of Education’s website for information about literacy initiatives.

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