The language arts program at The Willow School forms the heart of the School’s academic program. With literature at its core, students are taught to read fluently, write clearly and compellingly, listen thoughtfully, and speak eloquently. Through an integrated and experience-based program, students’ individual needs are met and nurtured. Reading for pleasure is celebrated as teachers help children develop a lifelong love of reading and writing.
Throughout their time at The Willow School, children are immersed in quality literature. Classrooms and the school library are filled with engaging fiction and nonfiction texts. These selections support the expectation that reading is an integral part of life, both inside and outside of the classroom. Students are given opportunities to explore books independently, encouraging them to read often, to seek out books, and to write their own tales.
Reading begins in the early childhood classrooms where the youngest readers discover that print carries meaning and power. As part of a sequential, multi-sensory approach to language learning, a structured phonics program provides a solid foundation for young readers and supports reading fluency, accuracy, and vocabulary development. Further emphasis is placed on reading comprehension through strategies that are commonly used by proficient readers. These concepts, taught alongside common literary elements, provide the skills necessary for children to become avid readers. Teachers help students learn to select just right books that are appropriately matched for each child’s reading development. Willow’s comprehensive leveled library allows students to study books best suited to their individual reading proficiency. Students explore print through a variety of activities including guided reading, partner reading, literature discussion groups, book clubs, and novel studies. Reading workshop is a vehicle used to encourage independent reading in which individual skills are taught and practiced. Reading stories aloud further improves listening and comprehension skills, builds vocabulary, and exposes children to literature above their reading level.
Writing is an essential part of the school day, and Willow students come to view themselves as authors. Lower School students learn printing and cursive using Handwriting Without Tears, a handwriting program that provides students with the physical skills necessary to achieve good penmanship. Our writing workshop is an individualized program in which students pursue relevant skills and apply them to their work. Students use exemplary literature as a springboard for generating ideas and studying the craft of writing. Choosing their own creative writing topics is an important element in fostering interest, ownership, and quality. Stories from their own lives hold great significance, and often produce works of art.
In addition to creative writing, students also learn to write in more structured formats and for a variety of purposes. Encouraged to explore various genres and take risks, Willow students focus on expository and persuasive writing, as well as poetry, letter writing, scientific reports, journal keeping, and speech writing. They collect ideas, write, revise, edit, confer, and publish. Children learn the structure of language, the foundation upon which all subsequent learning is built. Montessori Grammar, Daily Oral Language, and Words Their Way are programs The Willow School incorporates into its language arts curriculum. The study of Latin in the Middle School further enriches the understanding of the English language. As students develop an attention to detail and logical thinking, they become precise, subtle, and discerning readers and writers.