Growing Lifelong Learners Since 1972

Language Arts

Reading, writing, speaking, and listening are natural processes of communication that are integrated into every school day and throughout the curriculum. Wingra classrooms are alive with conversation and print, from Morning Meeting to Read-Aloud at the end of the day.

Teachers address effective and respectful speaking and listening as part of the social curriculum. Growth in reading and writing skills occurs more directly through curricular experiences.

At the primary level, ages 5 to 7

We believe that learning to read is partly developmental and that children usually learn to read when they are ready to do so. We foster reading readiness by providing a rich variety of oral, print, listening, and life experiences.

We do not believe in the "all or nothing" approach that has dominated much of the phonics versus whole language debate. Although we start most children reading through instruction that is phonics-based, some children demonstrate early on that they thrive as readers through a whole-word/meaning-based approach. Our strategies are flexible, eclectic, and personalized for each student.

We believe that young children enjoy and appreciate real literature, and that a rich variety of trade books, both fiction and nonfiction, are essential components of a high-quality primary reading program.

We believe that reading and writing are naturally connected processes and are best learned in an integrated approach. We believe that writing is largely a developmental process as well, evolving from picture writing to scribble writing to random letters to copying text to using invented spelling to using accurate spelling. Children this age experience tremendous growth as writers. All children at this level do creative writing, journal entries, and content writing, as well as handwriting practice.

At the intermediate level, ages 8 to 11

In these middle years, Wingra students read a lot every day. We expect that most children will develop reading skills that allow them to self-select reading material within a given genre. Students discuss what they read with teachers and in cross-age literature groups. Instruction is given in frequently used sight words and new vocabulary.

Reading is viewed as a pleasurable activity and as a necessary tool for succeeding in the world. In the upper ages of this level, genres used by classes will expand to include biographies, culturally relevant literature, and historical fiction. Students are taught research and information-gathering techniques and how to extract information from written materials.

In this age range, students write journals, poetry, plays, fiction, biography, scientific reports and analysis, and independent research projects. Writing instruction and practice focuses on organization, mechanics, punctuation, spelling, and grammar. Attention is given to commonly misspelled words, often chosen from thematic units, and words extracted from the students' literature choices. Spelling generalizations are also taught.

At the senior level, ages 11 to 14

We believe that by this age students should be reading daily, reading for pleasure, and broadening their reading interests. They are library users, and monthly trips are made to the Madison Public Library to replenish classroom bookshelves. We give students opportunities to read aloud with peers and with younger students.

Students write on teacher-assigned and self-selected topics. Weekly vocabulary-building activities continually refine their ability to communicate in written form. They complete writing assignments daily. Teachers review their work and indicate needed revision. Students practice writing in different genres, including journal, science writing, fiction, poetry, biography, and drama. Plays written by students are performed at Kids' Night Out, an annual evening of student-led theatrical entertainment.

Banner photo by Marieka Greene