English language arts proficiency is the cornerstone of a twenty-first century education.
Language proficiency is the cornerstone of every education. Language is the medium of thinking and learning, and skilled use of language is essential for academic success, participation in society, and contribution to a better world. As English has grown as the communication tool of business and governments in the twenty-first century, reading, writing and speaking proficiently and thoughtfully in English is the central to our students’ future.
We believe that language learning is life-long. It is essential to provide students with vertically and horizontally aligned language experiences. This promotes an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the different functions, contexts, and varieties of English. Students are coached in acquiring developmentally appropriate skills for using English for different purposes. As language expresses identity, students will be encouraged to take risks, experiment with language, make choices about their own learning and to make approximations in written and spoken English. We believe that language learning is a developmental process (Holdaway, 1986) and the cornerstone exploration of our school.
All students can learn.
We believe that all students can learn, and are learning. It is our responsibility to channel and individualize their learning to broaden both knowledge and skill in textual analysis and language use. We believe that students have “all kinds of minds” (Levine, 2002) and we must use a variety of materials and methods to help them to grow. To this end, all core texts are available in print, audio and video, and we provide alternative texts that promote language development, as well as extended texts that broaden student language experiences. We must consistently revise curriculum to maintain its relevance and quality. We provide equal access to the English curriculum for both additional language and special needs students in mainstream teaching classes. The course instructor and the EAL and ES Departments will provide additional assistance with specific language development through extra classes and tuition.
Learning is a construction based upon prior knowledge and experiences.
We believe that language learning is a construction, based on student prior knowledge and experiences (Vygotsky, 1962). Thus, our language program is learner-centered, and works toward the “zone of proximal development” for our students. We foster an environment that encourages creativity and experimentation, while providing challenges and high expectations for students. Language learning requires interaction and active participation, and we utilize a variety of cooperative learning strategies, such as literacy circles, peer editing, team projects, small and large group discussion and formal debate (Routman, 1994). Language is best developed when students understand and control (and feel empowered by) the learning process. Thus many assignments are open-ended, there are opportunities for student choice of topic and text, and we provide negotiated rubrics for every assessment task.