Being a Reader
combines foundational skills instruction with personalized literacy practice, rich experiences, and social skills instruction. It allows teachers to meet each student where they are developmentally and help them reach their next level of literacy. Being a Writer
is a writing process approach that “taps into students’ intrinsic motivation to express their ideas” and fosters the skills necessary to develop ideas, collaborate with peers, and give and receive feedback. These student-centered programs fuel reading and writing habits that strengthen comprehension and content understanding while providing students with personalized experiences.
The Science of Reading (SOR) provides a model to illustrate the critical elements of what works best for early literacy instruction: RC = D x LC. Reading comprehension (RC) requires sounding out and recognizing words (D for decoding) and understanding the words and sentences that we hear (LC for language comprehension). This research clearly guides us to understand the key principles for strong literacy instruction:
These elements are integral components of everyday literacy instruction at Dawson.
Phonological Awareness (PA)
PA is the ability for a reader to blend and segment sounds in a word. This is cultivated at Dawson through direct instruction in letter recognition and spelling-sound correspondences, rhyming, inital/medial/ending sound activities, and practice with oral blending and segmenting. PA instruction can happen during small group work or during whole group shared reading lessons
Phonics and Word Recognition
We know that once beginning readers develop letter-sound correspondence, they can begin to read words. Our curriculum at Dawson includes systematic and explicit phonics instruction with the daily practice of oral blending and segmenting of words.
Most of this work is done in small groups and in whole groups beginning in grade 2. In small groups, the work is associated with phonics concepts and the text is designed to match the specific phonics skill on which the group is focusing. This provides readers opportunities to apply what they are learning to the text. Guided spelling at the end of small-group lessons allows students to transfer their phonics learnings to the application of spelling words.
Rereading texts helps to build fluency in all grade levels. Dawson students review small group reading texts multiple times with their teacher, and they continue to reread during independent work time or at home. The opportunities to reread a text helps students build their fluency and their comprehension of it. Specific small-group lessons are also incorporated to provide instruction focused on fluency.
Rich discussions before, during and after read alouds help students develop a deeper understanding of a text. It also provides them with opportunities to learn and apply the strategies good readers use, such as visualizing and making inferences. These conversations can happen in every grade level during whole-class groups and small-group instruction. Book clubs in the upper grade levels provide a rich, authentic experience for students to engage with their peers while reading and discussing a book together. The application of comprehension strategies happens through independent daily reading in which students read books of their choice at their individual level. Teachers confer with students one-on-one to check for understanding and to look for evidence of applied comprehension strategies they are learning.
Reading & Writing
Reading and writing go hand in hand. Daily, our students are engaged in authentic writing tasks, some of which are attached to the reading they are doing such as responding to texts, while others are genre-specific, such as crafting a fiction story. We help our students see the power of writing by giving them opportunities to use it as a tool for their learning by way of communicating their thoughts and ideas and informing or convincing someone of an opinion. We use authentic text not only to teach comprehension strategies but also as a way to see what good writing looks like. This, in turn, helps students learn the elements of various writing genres.
These key components are woven throughout Dawson’s program to help students grow as readers each day. Students in all grade levels are supported by a curriculum that is personalized to their individual needs, and we see the continued success of engaging them in rich literacy activities that cultivate a lifelong love of reading and writing.
Dean of Lower School Academics