The Literacy Department requires that all students be provided with rich, engaging, literacy centered spaces so that all students will acquire the necessary skills and strategies to be life long readers. New Haven Public Schools begins with early literacy, in grades K-2. Early literacy refers to the acquisition of foundational literacy skills and strategies in a comprehensive literacy program. The pillars of foundational reading skills are phonemic awareness, phonics, word study, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Young students demonstrate their mastery of foundational literacy skills and strategies when they can read independently with comprehension across a wide range of age- and grade-appropriate narrative, expository, and persuasive texts. Early literacy is also evident when students have acquired the foundational skills and strategies involved in planning, drafting, revising, and editing their writing and are able to use these skills strategically when communicating meaning in opinion pieces, simple essays that establish a personal point of view, personal narratives, and imaginative stories
If literacy instruction in grades 3-8 is provided through a comprehensive literacy approach students are explicitly taught reading skills that progress students from learning to read to reading to learn. The scaffolding that needs to exist between making meaning and still working on the foundational skills creates the balance needed within the classroom. Both the CCSS and a literate environment require students to engage in shared inquiry gradually moving from Teacher supported to independent application. The bedrock of such a balanced comprehensive program is the philosophy, "What a child can do today in cooperation [teacher-student and student-student] he can do alone tomorrow" (Vygotsky, 1986). Thus a combination of teacher support and student ownership will help to create lifelong, independent readers and learners. At the heart of the curriculum that aligns with the CCSS, is the interaction between the reader and the text. This active, meaning-making process is not a spectator sport. Learners don't simply get ideas; they construct ideas. The Pedagogy believed to be best practice from research is the workshop model. The goal of workshop is to “foster the development of a disciplined, autonomous literacy in students while building a culture of learning in the classroom that promotes the literary and intellectual enfranchisement of student readers” (Blau, 2003).
While learning to read is no longer the domain of solely ELA teachers, content area teachers will need to participate in the development of reading instruction. An array of strategies and methods across classrooms will aide in students carrying their literacy skills across disciplines. There are a variety of literacy-related instructional strategies that assist content-area instruction and are designed to support students with varying needs. In this way we continually bring the structures that students need to solidify their literacy skills while learning in the content areas.
Just as NHPS has pursued a vision of learning centered on the creation of relevant and authentic experiences for all students the high school English curriculum encourages students to take intellectual risks and cultivate and expand their thinking, reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. According to Strong et al (2001),“[r]igor is the goal of helping students to develop the capacity to understand content that is complex, ambiguous, provocative, and personally or emotionally challenging.” Rooted firmly in the Connecticut Core Standards and 21st Century Skills, this curriculum provides our students with opportunities to take ownership of their learning as they are exposed to civic, information, media, and environmental literacy and are asked to think creatively and innovatively as they work individually or collaboratively with their peers. As a road map, this curriculum identifies a final destination for all students—the skills to be learned and the way in which to demonstrate that learning. It provides a focus for the journey by asking essential questions to ponder along the way, and it offers multiple routes and side roads to arrive at that destination by suggesting texts and learning activities.