Language Arts & Literacy


At CSD, we believe that language is central to all learning.  To be successful academically, each student must learn to read with understanding, write with clarity, and speak and listen effectively.  In the Basic School, language is defined broadly to include not just words, but also mathematics and the arts.


At CSD, we utilize a balanced literacy approach to teach the fundamentals of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. This philosophy means that teachers combine instruction with authentic reading and writing, integrating experiences so that students learn to apply literacy strategies and skills in a real-world context.  In practice, our classrooms include the following:

  • read alouds,
  • shared reading/writing (teacher modeling),
  • guided reading/writing (differentiated groupings),
  • strategy craft lessons,
  • independent reading/writing with choice of books and prompts,
  • conferences between teachers and students,
  • word study/phonics/spelling (phonetics, decoding, Greek/Latin roots, prefixes, suffixes),
  • vocabulary development

As students get older and advance through the grades, students shift from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”  While reading books and other text sources that are appropriate to students’ guided reading levels, students practice reading comprehension skills and strategies and are exposed to a variety of genres. Students are explicitly taught comprehension strategies (ex: synthesizing, determining importance, inferring, questioning, and metacognition) and are then given multiple opportunities to apply these strategies across genres and curricula. Students also participate in other authentic, social reading experiences such as novel studies, literature circles, and book clubs as a means to interact with different pieces of text and to further cultivate a love of reading. In addition, as students age, vocabulary and explicit word relationship instruction becomes an integral part of the reading workshop to enhance meaning and comprehension of more advanced text. Writing

In The Basic School, writing is viewed as the counterpart to reading and is woven throughout the entire curriculum. We believe that writing is an act of both discipline and discovery and that children should be given opportunities to be self-expressive while exhibiting clear thinking.  At CSD, children are encouraged to write each day. We place a heavy emphasis on the writing process throughout our elementary program and include brainstorming, drafting, editing, revising and publishing activities. Students write for “real” purposes and for “real” audiences, not merely to meet the requirements of an assignment.