California School for the Deaf

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Middle School » English


The Middle School English teachers are hard at work developing and implementing an innovative reading and writing program, which expands and enriches students’ daily reading and writing experiences.  Please contact us for any reason at 510-794-3755, write to us at our email address or write a brief note at the bottom of your child’s agenda book. Thank you.

The program is designed to give direct instruction for reading strategies through modeling and guided reading. In addition, ample time is given to reading practice in applying comprehension strategies and activities to increase students’ vocabulary base and spelling skills. Also included in the daily schedule are opportunities for discussing what’s read with the teacher and a variety of peers. Our main goal is for students to build up their vocabulary to read words in text automatically so their minds can focus on comprehending text and applying essential reading strategies that proficient readers use to improve overall comprehension and enjoyment of reading. In order to achieve this goal, we have restructured reading instruction to be more student-centered and extended the amount of time students read on a daily basis in school.

-To make the process of reading words effortless and automatic so that the mind can be free to reflect on meaning. (Marilyn Adams, 1990)
-To provide deep comprehension instruction to develop reading strategies and skills in the context of reading and writing whole texts.                                                                                                                                         - To become literate individuals who not only can read and write, but who want to. (Adams, 1990)
-To apply reading strategies independently and flexibly.
-To give students a taste of success and build self-esteem along with increased reading skills.

-The student is an experienced reader who uses appropriate reading strategies to comprehend a variety of assigned and self-selected text.
-The student reads for a variety of purposes: to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate a wide range of material.
-The students reads, extensively and in depth, from a diverse collection of texts and other materials. The student continues to experience visual presentations of text through ASL and media.
-The student is required to demonstrate understanding of concepts and perform skills as stated in the Individual Educational Plan (IEP).

This class uses authentic text to directly teach students how to apply strategies proficient readers use to improve their comprehension skills. Students will also be taught to monitor their own comprehension so they can identify confusing words, sentences, or ideas and fix them in order to read independently. This class also covers fully developed vocabulary and spelling programs. Students who can read all the words in a text are able to focus more on comprehending the story.

Teachers will use a variety of texts to model the thinking process of how to apply the essential reading strategies. After sufficient teacher-modeling and student participation, instruction will move from shared reading (teacher led) to guided reading where students assume more responsibility for comprehension and actively practice applying the strategies while they read. Students will learn how to use the following essential strategies to enable them to become more fluent and independent as readers:

-Schema to activate prior knowledge before, during, and after reading text and make connections with text

-Monitoring comprehension to know when a text is comprehensible and what to do if comprehension breaks down.

-Determining important words, sentences, or sections of text

-Questioning to clarify and focus reading

-Visual and other sensory images to deepen understanding of the text

-Inferring to create a personal meaning from text

-Retelling (or synthesis) to attend to the most important information and the order of the information

-Students will learn vocabulary terms found in their class book. These terms include teacher-selected key concepts and ideas as well as student-selected terms.

-Students  will be expected to build their sight vocabulary. These words come from a list of the 3,000 most commonly used words in stories or otherwise known as “high-frequency” words. Each student will be assessed to find the starting point for instruction. These words will be introduced and taught through teacher led mini lessons  reinforced through rereading their “word bank,” partner and learning center activities, as well as practice at home with parents.

-Students will also need to be able to read their spelling words, so spelling instruction will include spelling and reading practice.

Instruction is directly dependent on student assessment and on-going performance.
1. Word Sorting – Students will practice categorizing spelling words according to conceptual similarities or spelling patterns.
2. Partner and group work – Using learning centers and group activities, students will use specific strategies to help them practice and retain word spellings.
3. Individual practice – Students will keep a spelling log of word categories and consistently review the spellings.

Assessment of progress will include testing and review of students’ spelling in their self-generated writing.

This class is comprised of three distinct components:
1. Literature Circles – twice a week
2. PALS (Peer Assisted Learning Strategies) – twice a week
3. Storytelling/Exposure to literature – once a week

The Literature Circle is a structured reading activity that allows interactive discussion and thinking  around real books. The objective is for students to become experienced readers. Discussing books significantly deepens our understanding about them. The students select a book from a variety of offerings. In the circles, they take turns playing specific roles that help them become skilled at analysis while enhancing the reading process. They also  focus on applying specific strategies and vocabulary skills that are being taught in comprehension class.

The students pair-up to practice comprehension skills and increase fluency. The partners take turns in the role as a reader or a tutor. Students read stories or informative articles at their independent reading level and take turns throughout their reading to determine the most important person or event and summarize the reading. Through mini-lessons, teachers show how to apply strategies to improve their word attack skills.

STORYTELLING – Exposure to Literature
This component gives students exposure to a variety of rich grade-appropriate literature. Experienced ASL signers or professionally made videotapes will help unlock the exciting world of literature. After every story, students will craft a literary response using discussion or complete specific reading journal activities.

SUPPORT SERVICES – Reading Enrichment
* Assess students and set instructional benchmarks
* Record progress – strategy rubrics – reading interviews
* Reinforce comprehension and literature class – strategy use and integration of strategies – guided reading practice – vocabulary work – spelling review School-to-Home Program
* Review and check weekend activities
* Student rereads story to the teacher
* Introduce a new Take-Home book

* A variety of: leveled reading books, novels, short stories, and articles
* Mosaic of Thought, El Keene and S. Zimmerman, Heinemann, 1997.
* Signatures, Take-Home Books, Harcourt Brace Inc., 1999.
* Soar to Success, (retelling assessment) Houghton Mifflin Inc., 1999.
* The Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists, Prentice-Hall Inc., 1997.
* Guided Reading, I. Fountas and G. Pinnell, 1996.
* Words Their Way, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 2000.
* Reading/Language Arts Framework for California Public Schools.
* Middle School: Many, many, many teacher-made materials and activities                                                   *ELD State Standards                                                                                                                                             *Common Core ELA Standards

An important component of the program will be the formal assessment at the beginning and end of each year and on-going assessment throughout the year.

Formal assessments:
- Renaissance Place STAR

On going assessments:
- Running records and decoding analysis
- Vocabulary
- Word screening
- Reading strategy rubrics
- Narrative observational logs
- Performance checklists
- Student self-assessments


This course develops the use of all the parts of the writing process to aid in the development of writing skills. Writing paragraph skills are covered. Narrative writing skills are developed through writing personal experiences narratives and short stories. Informative writing skills are also introduced. Special attention is provided to develop English usage in free and formal writing assignments.

The 7th grade course continues the use of all parts of the writing process to aid in the improvement of writing skills. Paragraph writing skills continue to be developed. Narrative writing skills are improved through using sensory details, story writing techniques, and writing an autobiographical incident. Informative writing skills are covered. Special attention is provided to continue to improve English usage in free and formal writing assignments.

This course continues to use the writing process to aid in the expansion of writing skills. Paragraph writing skills are expanded. Students will also write evaluation papers which state a judgment and provide evidence to validate their position in response to a reading selection. Narrative writing is expanded through writing a biography and using various techniques to improve story writing skills. Informative writing skills are also stressed. Special attention is provided to focus on English usage in free and formal writing assignments.