ELA Curriculum at the Historic Downtown Lower School

Over the last seven months, the Lower School conducted a thorough English Language Arts (ELA)  curriculum review for 1st - 5th grade.

Led by Mrs. Matlock and Dr. Vanderbeck, an ELA Curriculum Committee, including teachers from each grade level, worked diligently to analyze our existing ELA curriculum, programs, and resources, and conducted a comprehensive review of available curriculums. The committee worked closely with Dr. Brook Sawyer, a tenured Lehigh professor and program director for the Teaching, Learning, and Technology program, who specializes in language and literacy development, as well as Keri Ramsay, the Assistant Director of Professional Development and Curriculum for IU 20. Additionally, our lower school teachers attended several IU sponsored trainings on literacy, as well as the PA Literacy Symposium to aid in our decision making process. 

Guided by the Reading League’s Curriculum Evaluation Matrix, the ELA Curriculum Committee reviewed eleven ELA curricula, specifically looking for a curriculum that best met the needs of our students and met the high expectations put forth by the Reading League. Specifically, the committee searched for a curriculum that addressed each component of Scarborough’s Reading Rope (Language Comprehension: Background knowledge, vocabulary, language structures, verbal reasoning, literacy knowledge and Word Recognition: Phonological Awareness, decoding, sight recognition). 










At the conclusion of the process, we chose Wit and Wisdom by Great Minds which uses exceptional, rigorous texts that can be selected to meet each of our students where they are and help them grow in the area of Language Comprehension. The Wit and Wisdom curriculum provides our teachers with resources to inform their instruction, increase their depth of knowledge, and utilize effective assessments. Key components of the curriculum include challenging, carefully curated literary and informational texts, an emphasis on building content knowledge across subjects, balancing comprehension and analysis, and encouraging deep thinking and discussion. Wit and Wisdom also includes a robust writing component which includes grammar, and we will continue to use the Sadlier Grammar Curriculum in grades three to five to provide additional direct instruction in those key skills.

To learn more about Wit and Wisdom, read the exceptional EdReport review.

In addition to Wit and Wisdom, first and second graders use Foundations A - Z to address the “word recognition” portion of Scarborough’s Reading Rope. Foundations A - Z helps students develop a strong grasp of phonics and letter-sound relationships as well as the crucial skill of decoding words and spelling, through systematic, explicit instruction. The program also uses progress monitoring to measure student growth. In addition, preschool through first grade continues to implement the Heggerty phonemic awareness program to help students develop essential pre-reading and early literacy skills. 

If you have any questions about our ELA curriculum, please contact Dr. Vanderbeck or Dr. Mahone. We welcome the opportunity to discuss our program and your child’s academic progress.


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