At the Secondary Level (Gr. 7-10), teachers continue to use the structures of Balanced Literacy above, but the focus is on building a culture of literacy within and across the content areas. Similar to the primary grades, the focus is on creating a community of learners where staff and student learning occur in a print-rich environment characterized by high expectations for student literacy practices. Students are supported as they engage in an array of reading, writing, speaking, and listening tasks requiring higher-level thinking.
In response to the charge outlined in Pillar 1 of Strategic Plan 2010-2014, College and Career Readiness, SCUSD is shifting towards a district-wide Comprehensive Balanced Literacy Framework for literacy curriculum, instruction, and assessment . A major component of this PreK-12 literacy framework is the creation of a culture of literacy achievement. This is accomplished through building a classroom and school-wide literacy environment in which students and staffs are considered as a community of learners. The work is conducted in print-rich environments where the message that reading for pleasure and reading for information are highly valued.
Balanced Literacy stresses the essential dimensions of reading through explicit teaching of phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency and expressiveness, vocabulary, and comprehension and emphasizes writing to learn as well as learning to write.
The Creative Writing Club at Health Professions High School is designed to help students develop and hone literacy skills through creative writing projects. The club focuses on providing a safe writing environment in which students can explore the themes of self-healing and the healing of others. For many years, medical researchers and psychologists have studied the effects of expressive writing on health. This year the writing club is also affiliated with Sacramento’s new non-profit organization 916INK.
Forty-three students from Will C. Wood Middle School sailed as the crew of the Hawaiian Chieftain – a two-mast tall ship that is a replica of a 19th century trading vessel – on Monday, December 5, as the culmination of a reading project. The students are all members of Will C. Wood’s Book Club, a new program designed to get kids excited about literacy and meet the school’s challenge of reading a million words a year. As a club, they read Avi’s “The True Adventures of Charlotte Doyle,” a historical fiction novel about a young girl’s adventures on the high-seas in 1821.
Students at Oak Ridge Elementary School celebrated literacy with a Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) Day on November 10. The children recently studied writing personal narratives, which they shared with their cross-grade level reading buddies. All students visited Principal Doug Huscher and Assistant Principal Daniel Rolleri to hear them read their favorite picture books.
Phoebe Hearst Elementary School has joined with the River Cats on an innovative reading incentive program. Home Run Reader is designed to challenge and reward students for improving reading skills with opportunities to win River Cats tickets and swag. The program was enthusiastically kicked off on Thursday by Dinger and Tony Asaro, director of community relations, who appeared at the school to the delight of students and staff.
Aiming to boost reading and writing skills and develop a lifelong love of reading in a school district where fewer than half of students are proficient, Superintendent Jonathan P. Raymond announces a major initiative—starting over the winter break—to advance English Language Arts performance at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10 at H.W. Harkness Elementary School. Harkness is located at 2147 54th Ave.
Joining in the announcement will be representatives from Target stores and Scholastic book publishing who will present the district with $139,400 in books. The books, to be delivered to 17,000 K-6 students at struggling schools, will be available to take home on a regular basis. Target will present Raymond with an oversized check at the event. Scholastic will supply samples of the books schools receive and have its mascot, Clifford, the Big Red Dog, present. Under the program, each school will get:
Two backpacks per classroom with grade appropriate English materials (1,232 backpacks)
Two backpacks per grade level with grade appropriate Spanish materials for classes with Spanish-speaking students (504 backpacks)
Two backpacks per grade level with grade appropriate English Language Learner materials (504 backpacks)
Raymond is challenging students to begin immediately by reading a book over the district’s winter break (Dec. 21 to Jan. 3) and urging parents to help their children set aside time for reading during the holidays. “We want students and community to get started as soon as possible in making reading part of what we do every day so students value and practice a habit
that will enrich their lives.” He is also calling on them to keep records of their reading with prizes awarded to schools and pupils completing the most books on a monthly basis through May.
In addition, Raymond will challenge adults to read and post their reading lists and comments on the school district web site. “We’ve got to be readers all around, and model the behavior we want to practice.
“Student success depends on the proficiency of their reading and writing skills,” Raymond said. “Gains have been made over recent years, but the progress is too slow. We’re failing major groups of students.” He notes that while nearly 67 percent of white students are proficient in English Language Arts, only 38 percent of African Americans are considered proficient. For Latino students, the rate is slightly better—almost 41 percent are proficient. Only 36 percent of English Learners are proficient in reading and writing.
“Today’s presentation by our generous partners, Target and Scholastic, symbolize the community partnerships and engagement we need to ensure every student can read and write, and develop a lifelong love of reading and learning,” Raymond state.
He observes the district has formed an action group to begin working with schools to incorporate literacy skills into all subject areas and across all grades. “Reading and writing have to be a part of every subject if we are to raise achievement,” Raymond said. The superintendent said another key part of the initiative will be aggressively recruiting volunteers to work with
students as mentors and tutors.