Our goal is for every Excel student to become an excellent reader, a talented author, a skillful communicator, and an engaged and empowered citizen.Myra McCormick
In order to do this, our students need to read, write, thinking critically, and communicate everywhere—in science class, in math class, in social studies debates, and, yes, even on vacation. Research suggests that one of the best ways to increase high school graduation rates is to ensure students’ reading is proficient in middle school. We anticipate that many students will enter Excel below proficiency levels in literacy. Accordingly, we recognize the critical importance of ensuring our students have ample opportunity to bolster their literacy skills and become avid readers and writers across all content areas. In addition to a school-wide focus on nonfiction reading and writing, Excel devotes 130-minutes every day to literacy instruction, with a targeted focus on both fiction and nonfiction texts, as well as writing. In conjunction with our literacy focus, is a commitment to ensuring our students learn the history skills and content that will enhance their capacity for informed citizenship, critical thinking, and awareness of self and others.
We do this through two literacy-focused periods:
- ELA/Social Studies Block: during this 100-minute block, teachers integrate social studies content into reading and writing instruction. In addition to building foundational literacy skills (in early grades) and bolstering their vocabularies, students engage in in-depth analysis of literature and informational texts from a variety of genres, learn how to develop their voice and craft as writers, and explore important connections between literature and historical themes, events, and time periods.
- Guided Reading: during this 30-minute period, small groups of students meet with a teacher to work on building reading fluency and comprehension by reading texts that are at or just over their independent reading level.
Social studies and ELA curriculum reflects Excel’s focus on culturally responsive teaching and creating space for students to build their critical consciousness. Curriculum is designed in-house, thematically arranged based on Common Core Standards and Washington State social studies standards.
From sixth through eight grade, Excel’s curriculum is designed to ensure that all students successfully make the transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” We develop students’ discernment, perceptiveness, and enjoyment of reading through engaging, authentic, and complex texts.
In our ELA/SS classes, the text is at the heart of instruction. What we choose to read drives the content of our discussions and the types of questions we ask. It shapes our students‘ exposure to literature and frames their conception of what it, the world of books, the world of writing, are. We balance a seemingly endless list of factors in choosing texts: the standards our students must master; text difficulty; the books they will love to read and the ones we will love to teach; the necessity of a broad exposure to styles and genres, to cultures, backgrounds, approaches and attitudes of authors; rigor; a book‘s importance in the larger cultural conversation, to name a few.
Reading instruction includes fluency, comprehension, and textual analysis of fiction and non-fiction texts. As Excel students become more fluent readers, the focus of literacy instruction increasingly shifts to deep comprehension and textual analysis. Students will read literature in a number of genres – including novels, short stories, poetry, drama, memoirs, and various non-fictional texts including speeches and expository narratives. They will be exposed to a range of literary works that reflect a rich and diverse literary heritage, and that provide them with chances to read books written by authors from a multitude of cultural backgrounds.