The Windward School’s language arts program is the cornerstone of the curriculum and is distinctive in providing students with three periods of language arts instruction daily. Reading and writing are taught with a strong emphasis on language competence, skill development, and cognitive strategy. The language arts program is based on the latest research as validated by the National Reading Panel, the largest and most comprehensive research study to date on reading. This evidence-based research supports the curriculum, which includes instruction in phonemic awareness, accuracy, fluency, vocabulary development, and reading comprehension. For beginning readers of any age at The Windward School, reading instruction includes an Orton-Gillingham based program, Preventing Academic Failure, by Phyllis Bertin and Eileen Perlman. When Windward students complete this beginning sequence, decoding instruction is continued through The Windward Reading Program with advanced work in multi-syllable words, spelling patterns, and a study of Greek and Latin roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Students then begin to read trade books and other high interest reading materials in a curriculum carefully designed to match the students’ decoding levels and language needs. Such materials are also chosen to foster an awareness of cultural diversity and to broaden the students’ knowledge of the world around them. The Windward Reading Program integrates reading, spelling, and handwriting into cohesive and carefully sequenced lessons. Improving word knowledge, expanding background knowledge, and developing comprehension strategies are emphasized in all lessons.
A strong emphasis is placed upon developing vocabulary, word retrieval skills, and grammar competence in order to promote accurate comprehension as well as receptive and expressive language abilities. The teachers collaborate with language arts coordinators and language pathologists to facilitate student reading comprehension of content across multiple genres. Teachers use a variety of organizational language strategies to help students summarize, paraphrase, store, and recall important information in both oral and written activities.
The Windward School Writing Program, which includes strategies outlined in the teacher manual Teaching Basic Writing Skills, by former Windward Head of School Judith C. Hochman, reinforces fundamental reading competencies and promotes clear and effective written and oral communication. The writing program enables students to express themselves accurately in written form by teaching students to write clear, linguistically complex sentences and well-organized paragraphs and compositions. The strategies and activities for writing sentences, paragraphs, and compositions are applied systematically during structured writing time and integrated into the instruction of all content areas. Skills taught through the writing program are supported by Writing Next and Writing to Read, which summarized the results of a large-scale statistical review of writing research.
The reading, writing, and library programs lay the foundation for the more formal study skills class that is part of the eighth and ninth grade curricula. While study skills course of study is scheduled for all eighth and ninth grade students, the foundational skills for the program begin in the Windward third grade. The study skills taught include note taking, paraphrasing, summarizing, outlining, organizing assignments, library research, writing, and time management.