Critical to the 21st Century learner is the ability to read, write, speak, listen and think analytically. These cornerstones of literacy enable communication in all of its expressions. The National Council of Teachers of English defines language arts literacy as “enabling one to think logically and creatively; express ideas; understand and participate meaningfully in spoken, written, and non-verbal communication; formulate and answer questions; and search for, organize, evaluate, and apply information. The language arts are integrative, interactive ways of critical thinking that are essential for student learners to construct meaning.” Literacy, however, is more than the acquisition of a specific set of skills; it is also the recognition of one’s purpose for thinking and communication in real-world contexts.
Westfield Intermediate English Language Arts seeks to empower students as life-long learners so they appreciate and respect the rich diversity of voices and experiences and are equipped to become global competitors. Students read from a wide range of text with an emphasis on informal content to build an understanding of themselves and of the cultures of the world, and to respond to the demands of society. This focus places students in a position to learn, explore, and grow to be empathetic members of society. Students immerse themselves in the process of learning effective communication strategies with a variety of methods including class discussions, debates, presentations, group work, and writing.
The content of the language arts curriculum is built on a balanced literacy foundation utilizing an inquiry-based format that requires students to investigate questions, scenarios, and problems. The balanced-literacy approach integrates various modalities of literacy instruction that incorporates explicit skill development through the use of authentic texts. Students read a wide range of literature and informational text to become well-rounded informed individuals. As students progress through each language arts course, they encounter increasingly complex and sophisticated texts and engage in the writing process. Students use various strategies to compose thesis-driven essays that demonstrate logical, clear arguments while developing a wider range of sophisticated vocabulary and experimenting with figurative language. Building on the previously acquired research skills, students continue to strengthen their knowledge and deepen their understanding of the research process. English Language Arts teachers expose students to new reading strategies and objectives each year. Teachers revisit the reading process with students so that pupils learn how to apply familiar active reading strategies to richer, more complex material. In order to synthesize the creation of knowledge based on essential questions, students employ critical thinking, reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills to demonstrate an understanding of the material, the questions, and the connections to each student’s life experience.