The Lower School writing program encourages students to develop an understanding of and appreciation for creative and expository writing, poetry, and drama, and to communicate effectively through written and spoken language. Students write daily and complete assignments through a multi-step process known as the writing workshop, where they develop strategies for organizing their thoughts, revising and discussing their work in student/teacher conferences, and presenting completed assignments to the class.
Students explore and apply proper language and grammar usage with the goal of improving their own writing. Throughout the writing curriculum, process writing and grammar study are designed to be parallel and interconnected methods of ensuring mastery of skills. Using the 6+1 Traits of Writing (ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and presentation), students begin working through the various stages of the writing process, from writing simply to get ideas down on paper, to later and final drafts of publishable writing. From the earliest stages of a piece of writing through work that can be read aloud, revision focused on these specific traits guides students as they work.
In grade four, students begin to work through the stages of the writing workshop at their own pace and are encouraged to edit their work more independently as they become more facile with the mechanics of writing. Students learn about paragraph formation, dialogue, and literary devices as ways to enhance their written work. The spelling curriculum advances to the next level.
Projects such as the speech presentation also provide opportunities for developing public speaking and presentation skills.
A yearlong vocabulary and word study program is also an integral part of English instruction. In fourth grade, teachers create a word-rich environment by modeling an interest in words through what students see in the classroom, read in a variety of texts, hear in the classroom, and use in speaking and writing. As part of their word study, students explore derivational relationships and Greek and Latin roots, making meaningful connections between words they know and words they may not know.
Students who successfully complete the grade four writing program will be able to:
- Apply organization and study skills
- Understand and demonstrate writing process and revision skills
- Apply spelling skills, including dictionary skills
- Use and understand plurals, homonyms, contractions, and possessives
- Demonstrate knowledge of selected prefixes, suffixes, verb tenses, articles, prepositions, interjections, and conjunctions
- Identify sentence types, run-on sentences, sentence fragments, and compound sentences
- Use proper punctuation and capitalization, including in dialogue/fiction genres
- Apply effective paragraphing skills, including the five-sentence paragraph used in expository or persuasive writing
- Identify and write topic sentences
- Write and deliver a speech
- Understand literary devices, including simile/metaphor, personification, onomatopoeia, and alliteration
- Write and read poetry
- Write and read prose for understanding
- Use graphic organizers for writing and reading comprehension