Reading Curriculum at MAGE
The reality is that gifted students with 130+IQ will frequently attain high-school and college reading levels by early elementary age, often reading 1-3 if not more, years ahead in terms of comprehension and or decoding and will be academically ready to for college level reading in their early teens. It must be noted that a subset of this population may struggle to keep up with grade-level equivalents. We do not hold students back behind some imaginary line. It is also not about pushing. Reading in elementary school should really be a magical experience, one that brings joy. We meet each student where they are and take them to the next level at their pace. Every student has strengths and challenges with reading, and we aim to teach to the strengths of each student.
For the reading program, we meet the requirements of two curricula, US Common Core and British National Curriculum – we blend them in our teaching and our skills matrix. We decided to not model our school after the IB PYP program because it is not articulated or specific enough and does not produce strongly recognized benefits when it comes to college readiness levels of attainment in core disciplines. We will communicate with the parents about their students’ attainment levels within those two curricula and work closely with families to set skills and objectives.
During each academic area, students will have cover a variety of texts of appropriate to them both in Lexile levels and complexity: poetry, drama, fiction and nonfiction and media. Studies will cover etymology and grammar jointly with our writing program. High vocabulary children’s classics, great books, and thematically oriented units will be covered. Matching the students with the just-right levels in reading will help them enjoy the reading material.
Teacher student and peer interaction during reading studies is critical. Students engage 1:1 in literacy activity with teacher, and also engage in reading groups and clubs, reading-related projects, and cross-disciplinary activities. As much as possible, we follow student inquiry-based, project learning even in reading, while monitoring outcomes and growth and weaving in key new skills.
At a minimum at each level, the teacher will read or carry on related literacy discussions or work on specific reading skills 1:1 with each student at least 2 times a week for 10-15 minutes, if their stamina allows. This is a general statement, based on specific student needs, it may be adjusted. A 6 year-old reading high-school level texts will have a different set of needs than an 8 year-old reading 5thgrade texts and so on, and a lot depends on each student’s unique learning style and speed, as well as their levels of regulation. Everyone equally deserves to learn, not just the bottom half of the class, and gets 1:1 and group time with the teacher in learning relevant to them only. Respect is given to those various factors during teaching.
Based on the student reading level and maturity, there is a teacher-led guided reading grouping as well at least once a week. The guided reading may be tied to common student interests in a book-club form or may be tied to Lexile or comprehension levels.
Because we are ability, not age-based, please scroll through to the sections that apply to your student(s).
For students that are not yet ready to learn phonics and are developing their phonetic awareness, we work on growing their phonetic and symbolic recognition and focus on the comprehension and vocabulary expansion. Will we test prep your child for CPS Selective Enrollment Testing? No, absolutely not. The focus of our program is to support students where they are, not to test prep them. Once they are ready to learn to read and are showing appropriate phonetic and symbolic recognition, they will be taught, each at their own individual pace. There is no magic age at which this happens. We want the students to learn without the pressure to do so, on their own timeline. We work closely with families to determine when this is appropriate for them – for some, that age is 3, for others, that age is 7. For pre-readers, a lot of time is spent building pre-reading skills kinesthetically, visually, and through auditory processing to maximize integration.
Students that have developed symbolic and phonetic awareness are supported through a formal study of phonics. Depending on the student’s small motor skill attainment level, this may be synchronous or asynchronous to what they are learning in writing. A larger portion of focus is on the comprehension, using context and picture clues, and techniques such as pattern recognition and prediction.
The ability to decode/read independently is a separate track for us from comprehension, especially in the early years – but this support continues as long as it is needed. There is no reason to hold a student back on advanced comprehension work until they are able to read at their intellectual level. There is frequently a gap level for gifted students: Bob Books or the like are what is available at their decoding level (we do much better, but still), while their comprehension is light years ahead. Students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia will be supported through special accommodation and will be able to continue to work on comprehension at their cognitive level though listening to books instead of decoding, in addition to working on making progress on the decoding separately. We want our students to enjoy reading and to celebrate their strengths in literature, not be hampered by any asynchrony.
During research or study projects in other disciplines, reading is leveled at the appropriate reading level. For example, if there is a history class and there are 5 different levels of reading in the room, there may be some articles the teacher recommends the students read, but there will be an attempt to differentiate the Lexile level and complexity of the text based on student ability.
Once we feel the student is an independent reader and no longer needs phonics studies, we continue 1:1 and group reading studies. We progress the students through high vocabulary children’s classics and great books, historically important works in the English language including works in Old English, and translations, allowing the students to pursue their passions and interests in and through reading. We work closely with the students to progress them through academic skills such as finding supporting evidence in the texts, discussing writer intent, foreshadowing, figurative language, etc.
All students, unless they opt out of library time as it is an elective, have a library card that they are able to bring to, or keep at school during weekdays, so that it may be available for the weekly or biweekly library trip. The students will learn how to request books and how to predict how much they will need for different purposes. While we will have a rudimentary library at school and in each classroom, we will need the greater Chicago public library system and interlibrary loans to support the voraciousness of our gifted readers. Students will have time each week to request books and to pick up books. An average classroom recommendation for books per student is 20. That would be a joke in a 130+ classroom, it would never do. They would come in, having had read more than 90% of the books in the room already before ever setting foot there, and the other 10% would be gone in a week. We know what we are dealing with.
Reading is integrated into everything:
· Our Drama program, where students will be able to fully explore the genre.
· Mathematics where it is critical for comprehension of complex problems. At some point, those who will pursue advanced mathematical studies will need to be able to have strong pragmatic reading comprehension skills to support independent learning once in college-level coursework.
· Reading in music will also involve reading music scores – yes, reading is a skill not just limited to literary works. This goes much deeper than decoding.
· Reading in science and history etc., means being able to have advanced vocabulary to comprehend or deduce the meaning of technical words in research papers and studies, and is key in research.
· We will also tie reading concepts across the foreign language studies.