Queens Paideia’s English/Language Arts program is designed to strengthen communication skills and an understanding of the world and our place within it.
By reading literature we learn how others experience the world, and reflect on how we experience it. We are introduced to communities, places, and lives different from our own, yet we also discern the commonalities that unite all of us. Through informational texts, we learn about how the world operates, how the opinions of others differ from our own, and new skills and knowledge. Through writing, we learn to share our stories and knowledge and to communicate our thoughts. Given QPS’s goal of preparing students for high school and beyond, we expose them to and engage them in literacy experiences that extend beyond the standard school-type assignments. All of this starts from the moment a student starts at QPS, regardless of age.
Pre-Independent Literacy (approx. ages 5-7)
At this level, students receive standard phonics instruction in short vowels, consonant blends, long vowel patterns, and standard digraphs, and they learn and practice sight words. They begin to read for pleasure on their own, often mimicking what they observe in our older students, and they read to each other. They frequently hear stories read aloud and discuss the information in them.
Students develop solid fine-motor skills and hand strength needed for forming individual letters correctly. As students develop their handwriting skills, they practice writing words and sentences and move toward keeping a daily journal.
When students are able to read and follow directions, read short books, and write sentences in response to questions, they move to the next stage, which involves being part of a mixed-age group and taking on independent work.
Emerging Literacy (approx. ages 7-9)
Students gain the reading and writing skills necessary to complete research projects in the various content areas. They read literary works, alone and with others, and do simple literary analysis (e.g., identifying character traits, setting, conflict, plot, etc.). Students write short stories, how-to instructions, informational reports, and opinion pieces.
Students form good reading habits while improving their comprehension and interpretation skills. They are introduced to novels, poems, and nonfiction texts like directions, instructions, and fact-based articles and books. They learn the basic structure of texts and how to make use of elements like subheads, glossaries, indices, and table of contents. In social studies and science, there is a particular focus on strategies for extracting and recording information—highlighting, note-taking, and using graphic organizers.
Students write short paragraphs as well as longer narratives. They write diary entries from the perspective of literary characters and historical figures, instructions, reports, summaries, friendly letters, and responses to literature, and they maintain a personal journal. They practice how to select a topic, generate ideas, and revise a written work, with attention to basic grammar and punctuation.
Intermediate Literacy (approx. ages 9-12)
Students learn higher-level reading and writing strategies that enable them to complete more advanced projects in all subject areas. They read literary works together and generate interpretations that they then defend against other views. They shift more toward writing expository texts like letters, instructions, reports, and persuasive essays.
By this stage, most students have developed solid reading habits and are effective at choosing books to read. To meet them where they are, we assign varied reading assignments appropriate for their skill and interest level. Students learn to consider and examine the author’s perspective, motivations, influences, and stylistic choices.
By writing expository texts for different purposes and audiences, students learn to organize and elaborate ideas; and they begin to consider their audience, including a reader’s background knowledge, interest, and reading level. Students become more proficient in their use of grammar and style, including parts of speech, word parts (e.g., prefixes, suffixes), advanced use of punctuation, different sentence types, and vocabulary.
Middle Years Literacy (approx. ages 11-14)
Students use literacy skills for their research in social studies and science, and in communicating effectively with an audience. Through assigned readings, they learn to write in formats that hone the skills of articulating with clarity and specificity.
Students learn strategies for dealing with texts of increasing difficulty. They continue to read for pleasure and take on assignments for formal papers and book projects. They investigate and analyze what the author may be trying to achieve by means of literary devices.
At this stage, students write to inform, persuade, describe, compare, and explain. They learn how to develop complex thoughts, organize their writing purposefully, and inject their voice into their writing. Students in this stage also practice new sentences structures and varied word forms.
Secondary School Literacy (approx. ages 13-18)
This stage of QPS’s ELA program helps students develop into purposeful users of language. They gain practice in a variety of reading and writing skills, focusing on such tasks as literary analysis, academic writing, and research.
As students continue to read canonical texts—fiction, poetry, and drama—from across the globe, they analyze them using different critical lenses, often comparing or reading texts from the same time period or literary movement. Students use their knowledge in social studies to interpret literary work and their scientific knowledge to read science fiction critically. The goal is for them to develop an understanding of why people write literary texts and how these texts are informed by context. Students study the author’s craft and literary techniques like satire, allusion, and irony. They are exposed to poetic forms as well, including sonnets, elegies, and epic narratives.
Expository and Content Area Reading
Students learn strategies for reading, interpreting, and analyzing the range of expository texts they may encounter in a post-QPS environment, such as research papers, articles, business documents, and specialized content textbooks. QPS’s ELA learning manager works with the other learning managers to devise cross-curricular units of study in which students acquire valuable skills in reading myriad forms of writing and in asking questions about what they’ve read.
At this stage, students frequently write in academic discourse, crafting and communicating arguments in a formal and professional tone. They gain experience in writing for a variety of post-QPS purposes, including proposals, resumes, cover letters, empirical research reports, journalistic writing, and multi-genre texts. Students continue to hone their language skills and are encouraged to see language as a creative tool rather than a set of rules to be followed dogmatically.
College Composition Preparation
In the last year of secondary school, students are introduced to college-level writing tasks, often utilizing resources found in college classrooms. More than just a type of writing, college composition requires a particular set of critical thinking skills that students at QPS have already been learning for years. In this phase of their education, they continue to ask their own questions, identify multiple sources, and come to—and write about—their own conclusions.