Language Arts Curriculum

Writing is a complex process that involves organizing and sequencing ideas and knowledge of the grammatical and stylistic rules of language. At Craig written expression is taught as a process rather than drilling a student in the mechanics of writing (e.g., grammar, punctuation, spelling). Teaching writing as a process is also a metacognitive exercise in that the student continually reflects on what is being learned.

The Writing Process

Prewriting. At Craig the writing process begins with the software program, Inspiration. Students use the program to brainstorm ideas beginning with a main idea and supporting details. Inspiration displays these ideas in boxes or idea clouds often illustrated with clip art showing supporting details radiating from the main idea. A variety templates in Inspiration are used as graphic organizers to develop graphic organizers or webs showing the interrelations among different ideas. Once the graphic organizer is complete, it can be transformed into a traditional linear outline.

The graphic organizers help students order and prioritize information and explore relationships among ideas. Different webbing formats are used for different types of writing assignments, for example one type of web might be used for a narrative exercise, another for a research paper. The ensuing traditional outline format is a valuable representation for students who have sequencing difficulties.

Drafting, Revising and Editing. Students use their outlines to prepare a draft on Microsoft Word. Each child is given a checklist adjusted for the type of writing, grade level and individual student’s needs. The checklists cover style and format, the type and number of sentences and paragraphs to include, the number of predicate expanders and questions related to proofreading and editing. All students are given a color-coded graphic representation of the five-paragraph essay modeling the sequence of paragraphs and their supporting arguments. These tools foster independence as the children work through the checklists on their own.

Students proof read their work by reading it out loud both to themselves and to an adult as well as listening to the text with the aid of text-to-speech software. Corrections are made on a paper copy prior to correcting the computer version. A customized checklist helps students to review their work for correct grammar, proper style and intelligibility. The checklist is specific to each piece of writing and is expanded as the student acquires more “tools” such as new software programs to assist with the writing process. These checklists, which are developed across all subject areas and for all learning tasks, promote independence and accountability as students monitor their own work. The checklists are also used as rubrics when conferencing with the teacher to determine a grade.

Publishing. The final version is completed and printed using Google Docs. Students hand in all the components of an essay, e.g., the outline, the graphic organizer, various drafts and other materials along with their “published” report. In this way both the teacher and the student have a record of the entire writing process for future reference.

Project Read: Written Expression. Project Read: Written Expression is a multisensory language arts program that teaches the structure of written language using symbols to represent the component parts of a sentence. The program is designed for students who have difficulty understanding grammar and the parts of speech, write in run-on or incomplete sentences, and/or always use the same sentence structure when writing longer compositions.

Project Read: Written Expression teaches grammar in the context of writing rather than the traditional method of naming the parts of speech and their functions. As the student learns the structure of written language, comprehension and vocabulary are improved. For example, teachers encourage students to use predicates with “punch”, e.g., “gazes” is preferred to “looks.”

Sentence structure is presented in a sequential order beginning with the simple “bare bones” sentence consisting of a subject and a predicate (verb) represented by graphic symbols and accompanied by hand gestures. The student learns to build onto the basic structure with predicate expanders. Additional symbols are used to construct more complex sentences as the student moves from the simple sentence to five kinds of paragraph development. Each paragraph type is taught with unique graphic organizers which are designed to encourage writing independence.

Technology

Read and Write Google Extension. Read & Write is a Google Chrome Web App that increases the accessibility of the text of documents in your Google Drive account. Read and Write is constantly updating, thus providing students with the most up-to- date audio and visual feedback enhancing multi-sensory learning and individualized instruction.

Some of the accessibility options include a picture dictionmy and a talking dictionary. To use either dictiona1y just highlight a word then click on the dictionary that you want to use. The dictionary that you select will pop-up in your document. Read & Write will also read the text of your documents aloud. In the settings menu you can select from nine voices and three playback speeds.

Grammarly Google Extension. Grammarly’s free writing app provides supp01t for improving grammar as students type. It checks basic grammar, such as article, tense and subject agreement. It also has a word choice mode, suggesting synonyms to help students improve their vocabulary.

Webspiration Classroom. It is a web-based diagramming, mapping and outlining service designed to help students brainstorm, plan, organize and write. For districts using Chromebooks or cloud-based apps, Webspiration Classroom delivers visual learning tools, lessons and templates to support instruction in multiple subjects. 
The visual thinking and learning tools in Webspiration Classroom help students prewrite and plan their writing, while also helping them apply visual thinking strategies to analyze, synthesize and retain information in any subject. Webspiration Classroom can help students accomplish any project: from 
brainstorming, thr?ugh research, to organizing and structuring their final report. Built-in collaboration tools support group projects as well as instructor-student interaction. 
Use Webspiration Classroom to:

  • Brainstorm and Plan
    • Mapping and visual brainstorming helps students develop and narrow their topic for any project.
    • Graphic organizers and diagrams help guide thinking and teach critical thinking skills.
    • Pictures help students clarify thinking, while linking tools help explain interrelationships.
  • Organize and Write
    • Move easily from concepting to writing: diagrams convert to text outlines and vice versa.
    • Append notes to any item to capture research or expand on a topic.
    • Drag and drop outlining makes it easy to rearrange and reprioritize content.
    • Export to word processing to complete the writing assignment.
  • Collaborate Effectively
    • Invite others to work on the same document.
    • Edits are tracked -see what changes have been made, by when and whom
    • Comment and chat spaces keep conversation separate from document edits.
  • Facilitate Teacher-Student Interaction
    • Workflow of assignments, review and feedback between educators and students.
    • Instructors can use the comment space to provide in-context feedback and guidance.
    • Homebound students and distance learners can get, complete and retmn assignments – all online.
  • Ideal for Chromebooks and Cloud-based Environments
    • Webspiration Classroom is a web app accessible through any browser.
    • Documents can be transferred right into Google Docs.
    • Can be configured for centralized administration.
    • Rest assured with a safe and ad-free environment.
    • Use with Inspiration®.

Handwriting Without Tears. Handwriting Without Tears is a multisensory, developmentally based program for children in the 3rd through the 5th grades. The program was developed by Jan Olsen, an occupational therapist, and is particularly helpful for children who have low muscle tone or coordination difficulties. The formation of letters is taught as a fluid process with each letter flowing from a preceding one, e.g., the “c” is extended to form an “a”. Creative methods are used to reinforce motor memory. For example, a child might trace the shape of a letter on a chalk board with a wet wipe wrapped around a finger to erase the letter.

Preventing Academic Failure. Preventing Academic Failure (PAF) teaches cursive writing to children in the 5th through the 8th grades. The program uses a cartoon-like figure to guide the placement and direction of a letter. A green vertical line at the left of the work area is a starting point for letter formation. The child is taught to move a pencil toward or away from the line rather than to the left or right–directions that are often confusing to the learning disabled child. All lower case letters are learned before the child is permitted to use cursive, but once cursive is mastered it is required in all classes.