The Language Arts Program at St. Francis focuses on developing writing skills and reading comprehension ability and appreciation. This is a multi-year progression through the grades (starting with sight words, listening to books read to them, and spelling in Kindergarten, all the way through detailed five paragraph literary essays in 8th grade). This progression builds on the previous year’s curriculum so that when a student from St. Francis moves on to high school, they will be able to not only hit the ground running, but be able to excel in his or her English classes at whatever high school they choose to attend. Our goal is help our students appreciate and understand a good book and be capable of writing a top class essay or short story.
Our biggest focus in Kindergarten is learning letter recognition (both upper and lower case) and letter sounds. Our students enjoy using the alpha-friend system for learning these concepts. For example, when learning the sounds of the letter Aa, we depend on our friend Andy Apple to help us with our exploration of this letter sound. Kindergarten students also begin blending simple words that begin with a consonant, followed by a short vowel and end with a consonant; words such as cat, tan, sit, bug, and bed (just to name a few). We also focus a lot of our time on handwriting using both upper and lower case letters. Kinders enjoy reading and being read to from many beautiful books, both classic and new releases. One of the greatest benefits to a full-day Kindergarten is being able to use literature to accompany many lessons throughout the day. Our motto is “books are our friends and we love spending time with them.”
We learn to read by using phonics, picture cues, contextual cues and prior experience. We study sight words and learn common letter clusters. We learn comprehension strategies using story charts, venn diagrams, story retelling, story sequencing boards, and dramatic interpretation. First graders learn to use functional phonetic writing as they begin the year. Their writing then transitions to writing complete sentences with proper capitalization and punctuation. First graders focus on writing for a specific audience, noting details, and writing with voice.
Through the stories in our textbooks we develop vocabulary, comprehension, character development, and drawing conclusion skills. In addition to our textbooks, we also read books from the Flat Stanley series and create a presentation based on the travels of our personal Stanley who visits with family or friends across the country.
We study grammar, story writing and editing. We read novels such as Stuart Little, Ramona the Pest, and Charlotte’s Web. The students read a biography and present an oral report, as well as design a biography bottle. The students’ imagination is encouraged to develop and be used in their story telling.
We undertake a comprehensive study of writing, editing, spelling and grammar skills, as well as learning various styles of writing including essays, friendly letters to pen pals, and persuasive, narrative, and creative writing, including poetry. To enhance our understanding of California History, we read several historical fiction novels including Pasquala, a story of a Native California Indian; Patty Reed’s Doll, the story of the Donner Party; and By the Great Horn Spoon, a story about the California Gold Rush.
In this grade, the focus is on reading comprehension, understanding literary devices, and character development using the core literature books. Students are taught to respond to literature with descriptive writing and proper essay paragraph format. Spelling and grammar components are emphasized as well.
Focus is on reading, writing, listening and speaking. Students read core literature books, participate in Writers Workshop, improve spelling using the Rebecca Sitton Spelling Program, and use the Grammar and Composition Handbook to work towards mastering grammar usage.
Seventh Grade Language Arts consists of four components: literature, writing, grammar and spelling. Seventh graders read, discuss and write about the following books: Where the Red Fern Grows, The Midwife’s Apprentice, A Wrinkle in Time, Farewell to Manzanar, The Outsiders and others if time allows.
A comprehensive review of grammar, along with spelling and vocabulary development are emphasized in our composition program which includes expository, descriptive, narrative, persuasive and creative writing.
Core reading includes short stories, a drama, and the novels Johnny Tremain, The Pearl, The Call of the Wild, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and The Pigman. Additionally, book reports are assigned each trimester on literature of the students’ choice within certain guidelines.