Lower School

English Language Arts

Balanced Literacy Approach

What is balanced literacy approach?

Through a multitude of research of best practices, we at Columbus Torah Academy know that reading is acquired over many years of instruction.

The National Reading Plan has identified five essential components of reading that are: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics and Word Study, Fluency, Vocabulary and Comprehension.

A balanced literacy approach in the classroom enables all students to work on these components. A CTA, we use research based best practices to help our students be lifelong readers and writers to prepare them be College and Career ready.

K-2 Fundations Fundations is a prevention program that provides high quality instruction that has been shown to reduce the number of students who will struggle with severe reading deficits. This program is delivered to all student within the classroom. It is an integrated approach that works on the 5 components of reading–phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension strategies. In addition, Fundations teaches spelling and handwriting in explicit instruction. All of the components of Fundations are taught using a explicit, systematic, repetitive, and multisensory approach.

Units of Study for Teaching Reading  Units of Study for teaching reading is a reading workshop model that was developed with over 20 years of research from the Teaching Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University. This program operates on the core belief that students must have access to high interest books, time to build reading stamina, the opportunity to respond to the text through writing and discussions with peers, and explicit instruction of reading skills and strategies. The program teaches using high expectations and rigor. The units are divided into 5-6 week sessions and go between units of reading fiction and nonfiction. Students are taught mini-lessons of reading skills and strategies that work closely with the Ohio Learning Standards that are no longer than 15 minutes. The lesson follows a predictable instructional pattern of having a connection activity, direct instruction, active engagement, and the link which provides closure of the lesson. Students are then released to work independently on their reading skills and strategies in grades 3-6th grade. Students are expected to build their reading stamina by being able to read for 30 minutes independently. As students practice, teachers provide small group instruction or one on one conferencing while maintaining data on the needs of each student in their classroom. At the end of each reading workshop, students are asked to share their new knowledge or reading strategies.

Units of Study by Grade:

2nd Grade:

Unit 1: Reading Growth Spurt

Unit 2: Becoming Experts: Reading Nonfiction

Units 3: Bigger Books Mean Amping Up Reading Power

Unit 4: Series Book Club

3rd Grade:

Unit 1: Building a Reading Life

Unit 2: Reading to Learn: Grasping Main Idea and Text Structures

Units 3: Character Studies

Unit 4: Research Clubs: Elephants, Penguins, Frogs, Oh My!

4th Grade:

Unit 1: Interpreting Characters; The heart of a story

Unit 2: Reading Weather, Reading the World

Units 3: Reading History: The American Revolution

Unit 4: Historical Book Clubs

5th Grade:

Unit 1: Interpretation Book Clubs: Analyzing Themes

Unit 2: Tackling Complexity: Moving Up Levels of Nonfiction

Units 3: Argument and Advocacy: Researching Debatable Issues

Unit 4: Fantasy Book Clubs: The magic of themes and symbols

6th Grade:

Unit 1: A deep study of Character

Unit 2: Tapping the Power of Nonfiction

Units 3: Social Issues Book Club

Collins Writing-Writing Across the Curriculum Collins Writing Program has been proven to show student success across all subject areas. Students at Columbus Torah Academy are asked not only to write in English Language Arts but in Judaic Studies, Math, Science, and Social Studies. Collins Writing aligns with the 3 types of writing that students are expected to be able to produce based on the Ohio Learning Standards: opinion/argumentative writing, informative writing, and narrative writing. It explicitly teaches students 5 different writing:

Type 1: Capturing Ideas

Type 2: Respond Correctly to a writing prompts

Type 3: Correct Focus Correction Areas (FCAs)

Type 4: Peer Edit for Focus Correction Areas (FCAs)

Type 5: Publish

Collins 5 types of Writing Explained

Collins writing ask teachers to create clear writing rubrics. These are called Focus Correction Areas (FCAs) and it gives students clear direction in their writing. Further, it allows teachers to focus their grading within the writing sample.

See examples of FCAs.


Beyond Textbook Knowledge to Succeed 

Growth Mindset – Definition


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