In keeping with our school's interdisciplinary project-based curriculum, our students' literacy development takes place constantly with a wide array of learning opportunities, beginning in kindergarten. The structure of the school day is such that a two hour block in the morning is consecrated to skill-building in language arts and mathematics. The language arts segment is for building reading and writing skills that they will use in their afternoon projects and in all the other curriculum areas. We follow California language arts standards, although we supplement significantly. We believe that reading and writing skills are only as valuable as they are in use. Therefore in our literacy development, students will hone their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills in varied and meaningful ways. Several ways in which teachers will create a literacy-rich curriculum are:

The Text-rich classroom: In order to foster literacy, teachers must model literacy. Therefore classrooms will have a wide array of texts present such as posters, newspapers, magazines, books in both languages, inspiring quotes and teachers who implement rich vocabulary. There will also be multi-media resources in the classroom such as talking books and computer programs assisting young readers in making the connection between the spoken and written word. The text-rich environment will also be student-generated , with materials such as word walls to evidence students' building vocabulary, student-authored books, posters and other written creations.

Guided Reading: During morning skill-building, teachers will implement the guided reading approach in which teachers meet with students in small groups to assist with reading. In guided reading, each small group of students reads the same text many times and the teacher does not read, the students read it themselves. The teacher sparks discussion, but does not lead discussion, discussions are student-led. The idea is to foster critical-thinking skills along with basic literacy. The small group size and student-led reading and discussions allow students with many different levels of skill to participate, and allow the teacher to assess the needs of each child in their literacy development. This guided reading approach will be a weekly part of the literacy curriculum.

Bridging Home and School: Teachers will consistently ask students to bring in examples of text from home, ranging from food packages to grocery lists and newspapers. This will inspire students to make the bridge between home and school and will emphasize the importance of literacy for daily life. In so doing, however, teachers will remain sensitive to the variety of home lives and socioeconomic situations of their students, not requesting expensive materials or placing value judgements on the examples brought into class. Also, in choosing texts for the classroom, teachers will follow the inquiry-based model, valuing students' interests and input.

Library curriculum: Research has shown that frequent visits to the library and having a school librarian on staff greatly improves children's academic performance (Colorado, 1993) Therefore in our rich library curriculum, teachers will plan frequent trips to the library. During library time, librarians will read stories aloud to the children that incorporate the current project themes, and teachers will assign research projects both group and individual. Children will also have free time in the library to peruse and read to each other. The library will be open a half hour before school begins and one hour afterwards, such that it becomes an open community space for students.

Kid-Generated Text: In order for children to have successful literacy development they need to find reading and writing meaningful. Therefore, much of the literacy curriculum will inspire students to create their own written materials. Starting in kindergarten they will write and illustrate their own stories and as they progress through the grades they will be increasingly responsible for generating texts about the school-wide themes. Students will research topics of their choice and create materials, both paper and digital that will be incorporated into the library and shared with children in other grades. This way, the students themselves will be generating the materials that teach them.

School Newspaper: There will be a bimonthly bilingual school newspaper that will include contributions from every grade level. Teachers in each classroom will work with students to create the final product. The oldest students in the school will compile the separate contributions into one publication and will produce the final document for everyone to take home. This process will assist all students with their technological literacy as well. The publication will also be made available online with the idea that the greater community will know what is going on at the school.

Peer Correspondence: Inherent to the literacy curriculum is the notion that reading and writing is a means to communication. Therefore, each student will have several pen-pals with which they correspond. They will have online correspondents and also ones to whom they will send written letters. Ideally, the correspondence will have a thematic and educational purpose. For example, if the class is doing a project on native plants, they will write to ask their pen-pals which plants are native where they are. Also students can do collaborative projects through their correspondence as well. For example, a collaborative art project creating a collage with materials sent through the mail. Since students are bilingual, they have the opportunity to correspond with students in Spanish-speaking countries, which will foster cross-cultural understanding and global awareness.

Teaching Multiple Literacies: Increasingly, digital media is taking the place of printed text and given that students are entering a technologically-rich world, we believe it is necessary to make technological literacy a central part of our whole literacy curriculum. We aim for students to be versatile in their capabilities such that they are able to comfortably navigate the internet, word-process, publish on-line and create digital media. Students will regularly use computers to assist in their literacy development. Teachers will also create online networks that connect students with other children in the United States and internationally, so that online communication is a ritual part of curriculum and students understand that technology can be used to create international connections. Since students are bilingual, they will be able to communicate with a wide variety of international children.

Buddy Reading: We believe one of the best ways for students to learn is from each other. Research has shown that cooperative learning which fosters positive interdependence and individual accountability is very successful in the classroom. Therefore, in our literacy curriculum, we will encourage older students to help younger students in their learning process. Each student will have a “buddy”, pairing younger with older students. Once a week, during morning skill-building, buddies will get together and older students will read to younger and younger to older and they will create projects together around what they are reading. Our hope is that by older students modeling their skills, younger students will admire them and be motivated to learn themselves. This program will also serve a social function, by building community throughout the school in fostering friendships between students of different ages.

Literacy through the Arts: Music, theater, dance and visual arts will also be a large part of the curriculum. Karen Gallas in her book Imagination in Literacy discovered that students learn best when the imagination is engaged. Our school takes Gallas' findings to heart, incorporating the arts into our curriculum in all areas. During morning skill building time, teachers will provide a wide array of literacy building activities, often incorporating the arts. Students will regularly dramatize stories they read in class and ones of their own creation. They will perform and create musical pieces about stories in class and they will be encouraged to represent stories in visual art format as well. Students will be encouraged to work in groups and create artistic interpretations of written text. This broad creative approach aims to engage all students since they represent a wide-array of learning styles and interests. They will also have opportunities to present their work to the outside community with plays, concerts and “gallery nights”. This will include parents in their children's literacy development, and encourage parent participation.

Fostering Critical Thinking: The literacy curriculum is a prime place for teachers to assist students in developing their critical thinking skills. Given that children are also in a dual immersion program, comparing and contrasting texts in both languages will be a critical thinking process in itself. Teachers will encourage students to engage with text, wondering about the author, the voice, the purpose of the text. Texts will be springboards for discussion and teachers will encourage students to create their own critical responses to things they read. In the younger grades, this can take the form of writing alternate endings to stories, or creating an illustrated sequel to a story. In the older grades, teachers will have more dialectical conversations with students about texts in the spirit of Socrates and Paolo Freire, such that students learn to critically engage with written text. Teachers will bring in a wide variety of texts including original sources and conflicting viewpoints and foster critical discussions about them. Teachers may choose to stage mock debates or dramatize stories to engage students with written texts.

Teacher Development: We believe that not only children, but teachers also learn best through interacting with other minds, therefore our school encourages professional development and ongoing staff creative collaboration. There will be a biweekly literacy curriculum. meeting for all teachers to come together to discuss their approaches and challenges. The school will also bring in cutting-edge speakers and thinkers to share ideas with teachers about new developments in literacy theory. The school will also encourage the teachers to attend workshops on literacy, since new approaches and methods are discovered all the time. Teachers will be encouraged to share ideas, books and materials with each other and collaborate on projects. They will also be encouraged to do research in their classrooms, both individually and in collaboration. It is our strong belief that our teachers are learners too.

All of these components of our literacy curriculum aim to inspire students to be richly literate, creative and bilingual life-long learners.


“Whose Computer is it”- Technology and Literacy

“New Literacies in Action”- Multiple Literacies

The Northwest Regional Education Laboratory

Colorado Study, 1993 refers to: Lance, K. C., Welborn, L., Hamilton-Pennell, C. (1993). The Impact of School Library Media Centers on Academic Achievement. Castle Rock, CO: Hi Willow Research and Publishing.

“Engaging the Imagination in Literacy”

Center for Critical Thinking website

Support for Buddy Reading:
International Reading Association

Gallas, Karen Imagination in Literacy Teacher's College Press, Columbia University. New York, NY.