Following BCSI recommendations, OCAE will supplement the Core Knowledge Sequence with the literacy program developed by Access Literacy, LLC, Literacy Essentials which is based on the Riggs Institute—The Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking. The program is a multi-sensory, brain-based approach to teaching explicit phonics, reading, spelling, and handwriting. It focuses on teaching students the “code” of the written English language, thereby giving students a strong foundation in the fundamentals of literacy and it addresses all learning styles. Riggs began with Dr. Samuel Orton, a neuroscientist who researched the functioning of the human brain in learning language skills. In collaboration with teachers, he combined his multisensory techniques with classical and Socratic instructional approaches to teaching. Literacy Essentials is an “explicit” phonics approach as defined and recommended in a Federal Compilation of Reading Research: Becoming a Nation of Readers, 1985. It is closely related to the Orton-Gillingham and Spalding Methods, and practitioners of these will quickly recognize the basics of the Literacy Essentials Program, which teaches the 72 letter-sound (phonogram) combinations used in the English language, beginning with the easiest sight-to-sound correspondences, and working towards those that are most complex. Syllabication is critical to a proper understanding of letter-sound relationships, so the program teaches syllabication from the beginning of kindergarten. Alongside learning phonograms and implementing these into a potent spelling and vocabulary regimen, students using the Literacy Essentials Program will learn handwriting, including cursive handwriting. As students grasp the basics of English literacy, the program lays a foundation in basic grammar and composition.
According to the Riggs Institute , The Writing & Spelling Road to Reading & Thinking helps teachers to instill the following language arts “strands” and cognitive development:
- “Explicit” Phonics with dictated Initial Letter Formation
- The Alphabetic Principle
- Phonemic & Graphemic Awareness
- Correct Spelling w/47 Rules
- Fluent Oral and Silent Reading
- Oral and Print Comprehension
- Pronunciation & Speech
- Creative & Organizational Composition
- Analytical & Inferential Thinking
- Auditory/Visual/Verbal/Motor Cognitive Development in:
Reading is at the very heart of OCAE’s curriculum, and the central position of language in the curriculum continues throughout the elementary and middle school grades. In grades 4 and 5, students will learn Latin and Greek roots of English words. In 6th grade, students begin learning formal Latin, and will continue with Latin through 9th grade. Latin is introduced and taught alongside English so that students learn the structural underpinnings of their own language, expand their vocabulary, and improve their reading comprehension. OCAE will also use McCall-Crabbs readers (scaled readers from the earliest reading levels through high school) for reading comprehension and assessment.
OCAE will also provide differentiated instruction in its literacy and reading curriculum. The Riggs program is quite similar to the programs employed by many schools for reading remediation (such as Orton-Gillingham and Spalding). By using this program with all students, we expect to address/prevent many student literacy problems before they develop. Students who are reading and writing at a slower pace than their grade cohort will be automatically trained in the language of instruction used in reading remediation—and they will receive remediation as problems are identified. OCAE will develop a program to provide struggling students with additional literacy instruction, likely through flexible scheduling blocks or classroom pull-outs. Additionally, students will receive differentiated instruction in the course of reading practice, wherein students will be grouped by ability and/or led through a reading practice regimen designed to meet each student at his or her ability level.
Once students have learned how to read, reading comprehension exercises will slowly be replaced with literature. From grade 3 forward, literature will become a primary component of the curriculum, one of the four curricular cores. Literature in the younger grades (especially in grades 3-5) will expose students to a certain level of cultural literacy and understanding, thereby allowing them to understand the literary traditions that they have inherited from characters like Robin Hood and writers like Robert Louis Stevenson. Literature in the upper grades will have the same purpose, but with the additional benefit of students reading the works in their original form (or as close to the original form as is possible for translated texts) to develop their own understanding of and facility with the language. The literary texts increase in difficulty and depth. Students receive further reading instruction through expanding vocabulary, grammatical analysis, and class discussion. They are presented with tales that are gripping and meaningful. Teachers are trained not only how to teach this literature as just described, but also to engage the students in wonder. These book choices have captivated multiple generations, some over hundreds, even thousands of years, nurturing a love of literature and so of reading. The Well-Ordered Language curriculum will be the basis for formal grammar instruction in the upper elementary grades.