In Lower Elementary we foster a love of language by using games, hands-on activities, and creative writing exercises. Because students' fluency with reading and writing varies, we work in small groups to hone their literacy skills and boost students' confidence in their abilities.
At MVCS, we want our students to discover the wonder and joy in reading, as they work towards mastery. In addition to individual work times, where students focus on specific goals, we use a Guided Reading structure, where small groups read aloud with their teachers. These sessions emphasize stories with phonics and high frequency words, but also let children tackle more difficult words and subject matter with direct support. More advanced readers focus on comprehension, identifying points of view, comparing stories, or answering questions about books they are reading. The Reading Buddies program with Upper Elementary students is a fun opportunity where students practice their reading and listening skills with older friends.
Every day in Lower Elementary, students spend time doing silent reading. This dedicated time lets children delve into books that peak their interests, letting their own curiosity and determination drive their growing ability to read. Each classroom has a variety of emerging reader books, picture books, I can read books, early reader chapter books, and chapter books in varying topics and ability. Teachers help students choose books that are appropriate to their reading levels.
In Lower Elementary, students begin to learn and practice the five-step writing process: pre-writing activities, rough drafts, revision, editing, final draft. At their own pace and level, students work on their spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and grammar lessons. At MVCS, we use Handwriting Without Tears, a multi-sensory approach to improving handwriting skills. After they master print, students begin to learn cursive writing.
In-class writing journals encourage students to practice these skills regularly in a variety of formats, including creative writing, poetry, narrative, and more in-depth research topics. Writing prompts are often based on themes drawn from the Great Lessons, such as “What do you think the world looked like before there was life on Earth?” and “Is it possible to see the past? How long ago did what we see happen on other planets? On the sun? On the moon?”
Students also keep nature journals to chronicle their experiences outdoors. We encourage students to record all their observations. We ask them to sketch what they see, emphasizing the small, often overlooked, details of nature. Honing these observation skills encourages students to be more aware of their natural surroundings on a daily basis.
Sometimes, students pick a plant or animal that they have observed during a nature journal activity and write a brief report about it. A nature journal also might include sketches of animals and insects, pressed flowers, research notes copied from a book, or nature-inspired poetry. There are no rules. Nature journals are meant to inspire prompt reflection, inspire curiosity, and ignite a passion for our natural surroundings at MVCS.